NYC denies services to 200 homeless families to conduct an experiment

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Bureauacracy, Children, Family, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Morality, Politics, Poverty, Stupidity

New York City politicians and bureaucrats aren’t known for being the sharpest crayons in the box when it comes to addressing homelessness. In fact, their track record stinks – despite all of their braggadocio and rhetoric.

To give you an example of some of the "wonderful" solutions which have been put forth by NYC’s bureaucrats…

Back in May of this year, I wrote a post titled, NYC’s New Homeless Czar Offers His Solution For Ending Homelessness, in which I mentioned newly appointed Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond’s solution to homelessness. In essence he told the homeless to "get a job."

NYC now has a new message for 200 families who are facing potential homelessness: Heal thy selves.  

An article in yesterday’s New York Daily News explained this hard nosed attitude: they’re conducting a study to see if the city’s new "one-stop assistance programs" for the homeless are effective.

In order to do so, NYC has chosen 400 families who are already homeless, or who are facing homelessness, and who have applied for help through the city’s Homebase homeless assistance program. Half of the families will be allowed to receive help while the other 200 will be denied assistance through the program for two years. The families denied assistance are being referred to as the "control group."

And the purpose of this entire macabre experiment?

To see which set of families fare better. In other words, NYC wants to see if folks who are given access to the Homebase program have a better chance at becoming housed than those who are denied access to services.

All of which makes me question the sanity of the folks who are proponents of the "study."

Imagine being a parent and trying to explain to your children that the local government says: "No, you can’t have any help getting off the streets. You have to stay homeless for the next two years because we’re conducting an experiment."

Rather than using those 200 families as guinea pigs, I have a better idea…

If New York is so keen on determining the effectiveness of the Homebase program, why not take NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg and his administration; Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond and his staffers; and let’s not forget all of the folks over at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research who are conducting this "study," and put them out on the streets? And then, deny them homeless services for 2 years and see how well they do.

I’m sure that first hand knowledge (via personal experience) would give them far more insight and understanding of what it takes to remedy homelessness than "clinical data" would.

Look… I’ll be the first to concede that homelessness is not an issue easily remedied. Nor do I believe that we can reduce the numbers of homeless to absolute zero. All the same, I believe that if we use a bit of compassion, liberally mingled with some good old fashioned common sense, we have a better chance at providing genuine solutions.

As a society, we have been largely focused on treating the symptoms of homelessness and have done little or nothing to address the underlying causes.

Although I’ve stated this numerous other times on this blog, it bears repeating: Homelessness is a socio-economic condition. It occurs when an individual or family can no longer afford to maintain housing of their own.

Admittedly, for some the financial inability to maintain housing is brought about due to mental health issues, addiction disorders and so on. However, considering the economic turmoil and skyrocketing unemployment rates this nation has undergone over the past few years, it should be easy for anyone with even half a brain to recognize that not all homelessness is self-inflicted.

I understand NYC’s desire to find ways of gauging the effectiveness (or even the ineffectiveness) of the Homebase program. After all, it is costing taxpayers $23 million a year to operate the program.

Still, it seems to me that there must be an alternative method to garner the information they want without denying assistance to needy families – if for no other reason, than because it will negatively affect children.

I think that Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless said it best:

"These are real parents and children, not rats in a lab experiment."

I sincerely hope that NYC bureaucrats will rethink their position; drop this ridiculous study; and work on finding a more humane way of coming up with the data. Although, based on their past track record, that seems highly unlikely.

  1. Good morning Michael. I just published a post on the same story I do want to give the Department of Homeless Services a bit more credit in that this would have to pass a research ethics board, who would have to determine that there is currently no evidence to believe that Homebase is more effective than ‘usual care’. Otherwise it would be deemed unethical to have a control group not receiving the benefits of Homebase. The idea being that Homebase provides the same services that are already available elsewhere, but does it an a way that they hope is more effective. That being said, I came to the same conclusion that this is a bad idea, in that I don’t agree with the premise that we can’t already assume that Homebase is a better model.

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