New York's Prodigals
Homeless Air: NYC Pays to Ship Homeless Home
Mayor Bloomberg Says Sending Homeless Back Is Cheaper Than Housing Them in Shelters
By DAN HARRIS, LINDA OWENS and IMAEYEN IBANGA
July 30, 2009
It's a startling way to solve New York City's very real problem. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration is offering one-way tickets to homeless people to send them back to their original home towns.
The program, which has been in operation since 2007, has sent people back to Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Puerto Rico and even Paris. Sometimes the travel comes with big price tags like $2,500 to go to South Africa.
Bloomberg has defended the controversial program, saying relocation is much less expensive than spending up to $36,000 per year to keep a homeless family in a shelter. "This saves taxpayers of New York an enormous amount of money," Bloomberg said. "Also keep in mind nobody's forcing these people to go. They want to go."
In the last two years New York City has relocated 564 families by planes, train and bus to 24 states and five continents. The program, which has been under the radar until now, is getting attention on blogs, cable news shows, and was ridiculed by radio personality Rush Limbaugh. "I wonder if they give [them] any cupcakes for the plane flight," the conservative talk show host quipped.
Some advocates for the homeless criticize the program because they believe the mayor is motivated by a political desire to reduce the city's record rates of homelessness.
"All we're really doing is arguably shifting the problem to another municipality," said President and CEO for Partnership for the Homeless Arnold Cohen.
City officials pointed out they've only relocated families once they know what's waiting on the other end.
"We identify outside New York City resources that they have so that they will be going to their own apartment, going to live with a family, or going to a friend, they are going to a home," said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs.
It's a startling prospect to New York City's very real problem. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration is offering one-way tickets to homeless people to send them back to their original homes. Then, the city employs a travel agency for domestic travel and the Department of Homeless Services handles international travel.
New York City officials said once a family leaves, they do make several calls to ensure that everything is alright. So far, not one family has come back to city shelters yet, according to officials.
City officials said there are no limits on where a family can be sent and families are free to reject the offer. Some homeless are open to idea of relocation. Theresa Small Smith is a homeless New York City resident who is originally from Los Angeles and said she definitely would like to participate in the program.
The Bloomberg administration's plan is not a new initiative. The idea of giving one-way tickets to the homeless has been tried in places like California, Nevada and Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
I dunno....hate to be cynical but it just seems there are too many opportunities for "free rides" in this program. How does one be sure this program is operating only the way it is intended? How does one know if the taxpayers are paying for flights that are not legitimate? What is the cost of this annually to taxpayers?
SimplyAmazed 8:23 AM
If they're not being force to go, I really do not see why some people are complaining against the program. Makes no sense, unless those critics want to make some money off the homeless. Heck, I do not understand why someone like Rush is against this program at all. (scratches head in confusion)
jupmod 8:26 AM
I wonder why all the compassion all of a sudden. Could it be that the illegal aliens have been complaining that the homeless were after their jobs. Now thats a reason I could believe.
AfraidToSay 8:35 AM
THIS HAS BEEN TRIED IN OTHER PLACES, LIKE PARIS, FRANCE, WHERE HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE REPEATEDLY SENT TO THEIR COUNTRIES . IN THE FIRST PLACE, THESE HOMELESS PEOPLE SHOULD FIND MORE OPPORTUNITIES IN THEIR COUNTRIES. OTHERWISE...
bartsimpsonforpresident2012 8:44 AM
Simply amazed- In the article it stated that it costs tax payers approx. $36,000/person per year for shelter, food, etc. If they relocated >550 people since 2007, then I'd estimate those additional homeless would have cost the city more than 20 million dollars over the past 2.5 years. To pay for flights, etc, I believe they said in another article that it cost them less than 500,000 dollars. Those are huge savings for the city and you have to take into account these are documented people living in the shelter who want to leave. Plus the city takes the time to ensure the people have some place to stay (with relatives, etc) at their destination. It seems like a good enough plan from the details released. Although, the media doesn't always have the story right, so who knows.
BabelFish0518 8:47 AM
I have heard of a program that the Southern States, e.g. Florida have and that is they give bus tickets to poor people to get to New York State so they can get Medicaid and other State run free programs. Why is it alright that New York State can take care of the poor American Citizen while other states, e.g. Florida with no income tax, can go ahead pass off taking care of their own people by shipping them to New York. New York has very high taxes because we have to shoulder the burden of other states not giving one ounce of care for their Citizens. "Give Us Your Poor, your tired, your huddled masses..." Was that a New York State quote, or did I hear that somewhere else?
kcarnevale 9:10 AM
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Reminds me of the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son from Luke 15:
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.