Performance Based Funding

Posted: October 30, 2009 in Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Money

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration would order that top executives at companies which received the largest amounts of TARP bail out money would have their salaries cut.

The pay cuts would affect a combined total of 25 executives at: "… Citigroup, Bank of America, American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers."

A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that approximately 71 percent of Americans support the administration’s placing pay limits on companies who received federal bail out money.  

It doesn’t surprise me that the majority of Americans support imposing pay limits for top executives at companies which were bailed out. After all, in the eyes of many, allowing those executives to continue receiving annual multi-million dollar salaries and compensation packages, while so many across the nation struggle paycheck to paycheck, is akin to rewarding bad behavior.

I have a feeling that some of what I’m about to say throughout the rest of this post may draw the ire – and perhaps some criticism – from among folks who are part of the homeless support services industry. Nonetheless, here goes…

What if funding – both, private and public – for homeless services organizations were based solely on performance? How many of those organizations would be to stay in operation? And, how many would have to shut their doors for lack of funding?

The first and foremost goal of each and every homeless support services organization should be to help folks get off the streets.

In fact, most of these organizations purport that they are offering "… a hand up, not a handout," with an eye at providing the homeless with an opportunity to "rebuild their lives."

Therefore, it seems to me that the only true measure of success should be based on the number of homeless these agencies have actually assisted in achieving some level of self-sufficiency and permanent housing.

If you were to inquire of these organizations how many meals they’ve served during the course of a year’s time, you’d probably get a pretty definitive answer.

The same goes for how many beds have been slept in or how many referrals to other homeless support services, and so on.

However, if you were to ask by what percentage they’ve helped reduce homelessness within their own communities, I’m willing to bet that you’d get no clear answer.

More like as not, your query would be met by a litany of excuses ranging from a lack of funding to not enough personnel to get the job done – and perhaps even assigning the blame on the homeless themselves.

It’s time we faced reality.

If we want to end homelessness in our communities, we must implement – and adequately fund – programs and services which actually lead to the permanent re-housing of our nation’s homeless.

Shelters and drop in day centers for the homeless are a good start. But, they are primarily set-up to provide only emergency services (i.e. – a meal and a bed).

For us to expect a decline in homelessness by providing only the most meager of basic services is naïve.

And, as long as that is all that we are willing to provide, we aren’t offering a "hand up" – we’re offering a "handout."

  1. Skye says:

    What’s the old line? Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Seems that it applies here.

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