Cities opting for relocating homeless in lieu of other strategies


Some cities are opting for relocation homeless people, paying their way out of town if they want to leave. Photo Credit: Pearl Washington/Wikimedia Commons

It sounds frightening, but a number of cities are starting to use a new tactic to deal with homeless populations, namely relocation. A growing number of city governments are trying their hand at relocating homeless people, though it’s not quite what it seems.

Salvation Army in oil-rich ND town relocating homeless

CNN reports that a shortage of housing has forced Williston, N.D., one of the towns benefiting from the oil boom in that state, to start deporting the homeless. It isn’t what it sounds like; these aren’t forced relocations.

Instead, people are moving to Williston to look for work, which is plentiful with an unemployment rate of less than 1 percent. They find, though, that housing is fantastically expensive. Since so many are moving there, prices have shot through the roof. As a result, people are going broke and homeless due to the rent being, as Jimmy McMillan put it, too damn high.

The Salvation Army of Williston has received a lot in donations and has put that money to use relocation homeless people. Those who request it can receive plane, train, bus fare and or gas cards to get them home.

Saves money

The Salvation Army of Williston is relocating homeless people at the rate of about 20 per month. The people that get assistance aren’t being forced out; they ask for help to leave. Many have to solicit the community for funds to leave for home as the gas vouchers aren’t often enough at a maximum of $80.

Other cities have been doing the same ting. New York City, according to The Guardian, instituted a similar policy in 2009, offering bus, train or plane tickets or gas vouchers to homeless persons or families that wanted out. Recipients had to prove they had somewhere they could stay in their destination city. Aside from trips across the country, New York funded flights to Brazil, South Africa and France in some cases.

The reason New York opted for that strategy is it saves money. Plane tickets can cost a few thousand dollars. However, it costs upward of $36,000 per year to keep a family in a city-run shelter. Between 2007 and Sept. 2009, 550 families had been given free fare out of town.

Slowly catching on

Critics have opined that it doesn’t solve the problem of homelessness, but merely relocates it.  However, that’s hardly stopped a number of cities from trying it.

Atlanta, Ga., instituted a similar program to New York, relocating homeless by giving them a free one-way ticket out of town ahead of the 1996 Olympic Games, according to the Seattle Times. San Francisco started offering homeless people free bus tickets out of town in 1999, according to a Time magazine article from that year.

Some more recent programs include the Grace Resource Center in Lancaster, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, which started offering free tickets out of town in 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times. St. Petersburg, according to the Tampa Bay Times, started offering a similar deal in early 2011. Nearby Fort Lauterdale, Fla., according to NBC News, followed suit toward the end of the year.

A homeless shelter in Honolulu, Hawaii, according to Gawker, the Sumner Homeless Men’s Shelter was actually soliciting homeless to come to their shelter in 2010.



The Guardian

Seattle Times


Los Angeles Times:

Tampa Bay Times:

NBC News:


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