comments_image Comments

New York Purcharsing One-Way Tickets for Homeless to Leave City

New York has found a novel, if expensive, way of dealing with its overcrowded shelters -- buying one-way tickets for homeless families to leave the city.

Under the initiative, by the administration of the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hundreds of families have been given plane, rail, and bus tickets and even petrol vouchers to leave the city. One homeless family of five was given $6,332 (nearly £4,000) worth of travel costs to Paris, according to the New York Times.

The city justifies such costs because it argues the alternative is more expensive. It costs New York's taxpayers $36,000 to put up a homeless family in a night shelter for a year.

Families can qualify for the tickets if they have a relative in another part of the world, including the U.S., who says they are willing to house them.

Since the $500,000-a-year scheme was launched in 2007, 550 homeless families have been paid to leave the city. None have come back.

"We want to divert as many families as we can that need assistance," Vida Chavez-Downes, a city official said.

"We have paid for visas, we've gone down to the consulate, we've provided letters, we've paid for passports for people to go. Anyone who comes through our door."

Critics have dismissed the initiative as a gimmick.

Arnold Cohen, head of a New York campaign group, Partnership for the Homeless, told the New York Times: "The city is engaged in cosmetics. What we're doing is passing the problem of homelessness to another city. We're taking people from a shelter bed here to the living room couch of another family. Essentially, this family is still homeless."

The closest British equivalent was an initiative in London to relocate homeless families to towns with a surplus of homes, such as Huddersfield.

Share