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Bussed out: how America moves thousands of homeless people around the country (theguardian.com)
239 points by chaostheory 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments



Since the article starts with someone in SF (although he's leaving), I want to proactively dispel the myth that it's common for homeless people to be dropped into SF by other cities because we have good weather and liberal govt.

It may happen sometimes, but a recent survey showed that over 70pct of the homeless people in SF previously had homes in SF [0]. So it's mostly a home grown problem.

[0]: http://sfist.com/2016/02/11/71_of_sf_homeless_once_had_homes...


Just a little nit: while article says they lived in SF and !had homes! survey linked says they were just SF residents prior to becoming homeless (though it mentions that 49% of them were living in SF at least 10 years, but don't forget that ~65% of SF residents are renters).

Residency usually just based on any bill with city address within last 30 days.

I can easy imagine case when someone moved to SF with hope that things will work out in big city, spent savings on few months of rent and with nowhere else to go and no established income ended up on the streets. While it's a sad situation it fits that previous SF residency narrative and in the same time not exactly part of some native san franciscans ending up on streets due to yet another gentrification cycle everybody so keen to bring up whenever homeless origin is being mentioned.


There's an even bigger problem. There was no validation at all. It was based on self reporting which, in turn, was based on asking [ideally] random homeless individuals, and then extrapolating that outward. There is an incentive for individuals to lie here if they believe that 'native' homeless might be subject to preferential treatment, or if reporting 'native' homeless increases could result in more favorable incentives for the homeless. And given how big of news homelessness and home price issues are in San Francisco, I think this motivation is a major concern.

I am curious about the baselines here for other areas though. Even given the incentive to lie, the reported numbers given still seem quite high to me. The most liberal metric is living in the city for at least 10 years, which applied to just below 50% of the homeless. Even if we take the most conservative metric of 'migratory' patterns, with 30% of individuals having moved to San Francisco after becoming homeless, that still seems very high. But I don't really have a baseline for comparison in other major cities and search is not turning up any particularly great sources.


Absolutely. Self reported data like this is nearly worthless in a serious discussion about policies and their consequences.


Considering there is existential incentive to lie about being from San Francisco, this survey qualifies as a biased source of information. It should not be held up as proof that whatever is working would work better if only we would please double the budget.


The article even turns it around: if no bussing were included, the homeless population might be double what it is. SF is a net homeless exporter (with the huge caveat of impartial data).


Forget San Francisco. Everyone talks about SF. Few talk about LA. Nobody talks about Santa Barbara or San Diego.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc7-w4szWoQ

The encampments shown there (which are talking about LA) are exactly like the encampments dotting the coastline in SB and along the onramps in Barrio Logan in SD. I imagine the problem is emdemic to most of the populated California coast.


If you check the links regarding that "poll", they don't even exist (the sfgov ones).

The only such study wasn't even a "study", just a survey with no verification of the responses. And the responses defy reality (e.g. 48% claim to have had permanent SF residence for over 10 years, which is a higher rate than the general self-supporting population).


I couldn't find the part about where they had phones. Can you quote it for me so I can search for it?


http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/lifeline/

Plans can include mobile data, too. Even those is the USA illegally can qualify.


I lived in San Francisco from 2011 - 2016 then moved to Pittsburgh, PA for a job opportunity. This past August, I went back to SF for a team building activity and I was blown away by how many fewer homeless people there were on the streets (excluding Tenderloin).

When I lived in SF, there were blocks that I would place money on being a homeless person there, and it seemed like most of them were relocated. Tons of familiar streets in SOMA were at or near zero homeless people. The interesting part is that my co-workers, who never lived in SF, remarked about how many homeless people were still out in the streets. To them, there were tons of homeless people and to me there were hardly any. I was so shocked that I even called one of my friends who is from the Bay Area and asked him what was going on?


They seem to just be relocating to other parts of the city as formerly homeless-heavy areas like parts of SOMA and the mission "gentrify." I walk through the loin twice a day on my way to my office on market st near the post-apocalyptic parts of SOMA and see a higher concentration of homeless in those areas than I used to. Perhaps you're revisiting the parts they've left or my un-scientific observations are wrong.


They also seasonally relocate, heading south in the winter and spreading out in the summer. Seattle's transient homeless population is largely gone by mid-December


Well now it barely seems like we are talking about human people.


How would you prefer that sentence be written?


Ahh the Loin...


Just noticed the downvotes my comment got. To clarify: I lived there and loved every minute.


Counterpoint. I've been traveling to SF pretty regularly for a very long time but for whatever reasons hadn't been there for year +. Was at an event at the Moscone in July. Found the homeless situation around the Moscone, Civic Center, etc. to be pretty shockingly bad. I'm not sure how anyone could think it had improved.


Oh yeah, 6th street - 8th street on market is still the same. I actually walked back from the Mission one night and one of my co-workers was like "You walked me through a crack den." Most of the people down there were strung out and not violent, but he was definitely not comfortable.

Gilde[1] is right near the area you're talking about and they provide tons of services for the homeless and mentally ill so there is a high concentration around that area.

[1] - https://www.glide.org


The thing is that in many other cities I've been to, the dodgy homeless areas are confined to areas of the cities that are less on the tourist line, but in SF the homeless problem is right in the centre of the city. My coworker and I were on a trip to SF after visiting a conference in the area (we're from the UK) and we got off at Civic Centre and went straight north, directly through Tenderloin!! to get to our hotel room. Looking at a map this is clearly the best way to go but I was totally bricking it when we got there. Turns out that many people just has an innate knowledge of where to go and not to go when in SF, but it's totally difficult to tell. I mean Market street looks like a main road and has all the big shops on like Adidas etc. Why would I expect the 20 min walk down this main road from Adidas to Twitter HQ to be so dodgy??

Another shock to me was that the homeless are very different between SF and where I'm from (Birmingham UK). Here, they are generally just pitied people down on their luck. They don't really cause harm but can be belligerent when drunk. In SF, many of the homeless people were _terrifying_, clearly having severe untreated mental health issues.

I think that the homeless problem in SF isn't that bad when you are a longer term resident because you get used to it, but it's definitely a big shocker for many tourists.


this is the Nash Equilibrium type problem that exists with US federalism and extreme poverty. Cities just ship people around hoping to reduce their share of cost, while the homeless just become more physically sick or addicted, and mentally traumatized, so they become more costly to care for in aggregate over a lifetime. Everyone is worse off. It would be so much simpler, cheaper if society just got people back on their feet as quickly as possible with focused care & rapid re-housing.


It would be so much simpler, cheaper if society just got people back on their feet as quickly as possible with focused care & rapid re-housing.

I think everyone can agree that it would greatly benefit society to get "people back on their feet".

But how? There's a virtually unlimited stream of drugs coming into this country. There are many people who have mental illness. In many places, The Rent Is Too Damn High.

IMO solving this problem is by no means "simple". How expensive is it to do "focused care"? Has it been tried, and what's its track record?


There's a virtually unlimited stream of drugs coming into this country. There are many people who have mental illness.

Anybody with a drug problem should be able to walk into a hospital, say "I'm addicted to X" and get into treatment immediately, free of charge.

Anybody with a mental illness should be able to walk into a hospital, say "I can't take care of myself because X keeps happening in my brain" and get into treatment immediately, free of charge.

If you've ever tried to help someone get clean or get mental health inpatient care in the U.S., you can completely understand how people end up on the streets who could otherwise be productive members of society.


If you look at this - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_homeless_... - the US has quite low homelessness rates. The problem is the USA is a massive country in area and population. The opportunities vary greatly, as do the resources. REALLY low macro homelessness (think nationally) can still lead to very high rates at a micro level (think Tenderloin).

Where can the USA look for similarities? Singapore is one city state, as is Hong Kong. Australia's cities are 600 miles apart. The EU has a language issue moving from city to city, despite London to Paris being 1/10th as far than SF is to NYC. The USA is pretty unique here.

The one similar country is China. The GDP per capita by Chinese prefecture makes the US look positively egalitarian: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prefecture-level_citie...

China solves their issues by essentially banning movement between areas. The US could never solve their issues that way, for a variety of reasons.

So I'm not sure what the solution is to micro level high homelessness, but macro level low homelessness.


We've found one partial solution to homelessness that works extremely effectively. It was enacted during the George W. Bush Administration, and continued + expanded under the Obama Administration, called the housing first program. We put homeless people into permanent housing, taking care of their shelter needs first, and then focus on treating them for things like addiction. It reduced chronic homelessness by 30% in just three years 2005-2007.

We added to it with the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, as part of the stimulus program in 2009. It helped a million homeless people in two years.

That the US homelessness rate looks relatively good now, owes a lot to this chain of programs.


Seriously this. What a lot of people don't grasp is that the sort of things that 'housing first' can (fairly expensively) help with are things that are even more expensive if the situations wind up being treated by mechanisms like hospitals, the mental health system or the police or jail/prison systems as crises.

Getting people into houses and then helping them clean up their acts, rather than setting a high moral bar (we won't house you until you clean up your alcohol/drug addiction and take treatment for your mental health issues) is just plain good sense.


Getting people into houses and then helping them clean up their acts, rather than setting a high moral bar (we won't house you until you clean up your alcohol/drug addiction and take treatment for your mental health issues) is just plain good sense.

I've always thought the "clean up then get help" seemed cruel and from a position of ignorance. I couldn't imagine being homeless and having to clean up to get a dry place to sleep or food to eat. Sobriety would just add another layer of misery: Withdrawal from any substance would add even more layers.


There are exactly those programs in San Francisco, but, unless you’ve ever dealt with the extremely mentally ill, you would know that they have to ask for the help. 5150s are temporary, so unless the person actually asks for help, there isn’t anything that can be done under current law.


> free of charge.

I think you should understand what this really means. Are you willing to pay 10, 15% extra of your income to sustain 10~25k a month bills for mentally ill people?


Totally. If it means they live an actually good life rather than a form of hell, I would consider it a very good deal. (Of course, things get a lot dicier when there are "treatment programs" optimized for siphoning money as opposed to helping people, a criticism that can be leveled against large swathes of the drug treatment industry. I would of course not feel good about 10-15% of my income lining their pockets)


Well, you can start by donating that to Housing First in SF:

https://www.homefirstscc.org


I'm guessing that you imagine that otherwise, homeless mentally ill people are a zero cost to society. Like it won't cost anything to put them in a jail or treat them in the ER, right?


Are you willing to pay 10, 15% extra of your income

Without hesitation. I want to live in a healthier America.


Yes


You can start here: https://www.homefirstscc.org. There are multiple SF charities.


Same here. I would rather that the disproportionately rich pay for it, however.


You would rather someone else pay for your beliefs? The disproportionately rich already pay a disproportionate share of taxes. The top 1% earn 19% of the income but pay 35% of the taxes in the US. I’m not sure that’s fair. Rich people also create the jobs: if they pay more, they have less incentive to invest more which means fewer businesses being funded and fewer jobs.


I generally agree with you here, but as an aside there is one nuance you have to consider. And that's taxation vs disposable income. Imagine somebody earns $50k and spends $30k on their living expenses and pays a 30% tax rate. They have $20k left after their basic living expenses, but $15k of that is eaten up by taxes. Looking at their disposable income, they're paying a ridiculous tax rate of 75%.

I think it's more reasonable to compare taxation on disposable income. In my opinion a fair tax would only tax disposable income anyhow. Of course that creates an incentive to have $0 disposable income but it's no different than the problem of corporations aiming to report $0 profit.

Progressive tax schemes aim to achieve this, but in a completely broken and inconsistent fashion. For instance somebody earning $100k in San Francisco is going to be spending a rather different percent of their income on basic living expenses than somebody living in Bodunk earning the same, and so applying the same scheme to both does not make sense. It'd be much easier to just make everything that qualifies as a 'basic living expense' fully deductible, and then you pay e.g. 15% on the rest.


This is a convoluted interpretation of utilitarianism, which is the moral justification for progressive taxation in the general case.

The last 10 bucks of a rich person are worth less to him than the last 10 bucks of a poor person in terms of diminishing returns.

What I dislike enormously about utilitarian arguments is that, provided some evidence, you can justify anything. For example: why ever spend money on homeless people that will not work: its better to spend that money in literally anything else.


There's more to it here - the wealthy generally are able to better play long games to further save more, better able to handle unexpected life events that could devastate the less prepared, and have better alignment with the government fighting/optimizing for their use cases.

There are a lot more reasons as to the exponential advantages the wealthy generally enjoy suggest that the wealthy should indeed get taxed more, but it's probably better suited for discussion elsewhere than HN.


Sure, but I think this starts getting into ideology. I think people should be taxed rates that, in a vacuum, can be considered fair. I pay 15% of what I can, you pay 15% of what you can is about as fair as you can get. The reason I'm not fond of going beyond this is because you start getting into very subjective territory.

For instance while I agree with all you've said, excepting your conclusion, I'm sure you'd also agree that lower income individuals would also be much more likely to end up as the direct beneficiaries of where lots of government money goes to such medicaid/medicare and various social programs. Since these lower income individuals are going to be disproportionately more likely to utilize the benefits of these government programs, would it then not make more sense for them to shoulder a greater percent of the costs to account for this? I absolutely do not agree with this conclusion, but at the same time I also don't see any clear logical flaw in it.

So you can do an ideological tug of war, one way or the other, to no end on these issues. One ideology might have the wealthy give nearly all of their income away to help the rest of the population. The other end of ideology might have people give none away and rely entirely on market dynamics. I think a fixed and fair sum is one of the more reasonable ways to step outside of ideology and try to create a system that nobody really loves, but also nobody can create rational arguments suggesting is, in and of itself, unreasonably biased towards one group or another.


> but at the same time I also don't see any clear logical flaw in it.

Great example! And I agree. The example you give is one of the reasons I have with progressive taxation, by the definition of %. Someone with 1,000,000 income and someone with 30,000 paying the same rate, the richer pays a lot more than he will use from the state. So in effect, a flat-tax rate is most likely already progressive.

I am in favor of a flat tax-rate for all, without deductions or exceptions. And I would go a step further and make the contributions public or pseudo-public.


But what about the extremely poor?


Aid that comes equally from the rest out of the flat 15%.

Its a different system one where the top 90% each cheap in to help the distressed 10%, another one where the top 10 give to the top 20, the top 20 to the top 30, etc.


World's tiniest golden violin. I am also against disproportionate taxes on the rich, but lets not start pitying them or assigning value to their well being above societies.

Liberty above everything else, and I dont want anyone to suffer any consequence under the veil of "trickle-down econ", which is not what people think it is.


Nah, I feel for the disproportionately rich. They’re constantly blamed for society’s ills, for the sin of having wealth, to the point where I’m sure something like 15% of the population would be happy with dragging them into the streets and beheading them. I’m tired of hearing about the “disproportionately rich” and the unoriginal idea that their resources are the only solution. It’s tiring to see people continue piling on with that rhetoric.


And not knowing whos real and whos fake. But, they should pay a fair share. BTW, The best income is 299k at Reigh NC.


Are you talking about wealth or income?


From what I understand there have been several successful pilot projects that are variously shut down or are considered inappropriate for other cities (politically unpopular). Utah just straight up housed people to great success. NYC has a massive homeless population but they also put a ton of money into housing their homeless- also to fairly decent success. For drug addiction, there have been successful needle providing clinics in Canada and America currently has methodone clinics to great success. There are various police programs just for connecting homeless people to resources to get clean and start working, and otherwise providing them what they need to survive until they’re ready, and we know these have had success also. None of them are politically popular and there’s a lot of opposition to implementing any of them.


Utah’s program of housing the chronically homeless has a lot of misunderstandings. Mainly about that it serves the chronically homeless, which are a minority among the homeless.

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865678779/Is-Utah-still-...


we've rebuilt like 15 countries (after bombing them) in the past ... somehow its totally impossible to temporarily house a fractional percentage of people in our country and make sure they get a job or their meds instead of addicted to heroin

theres so many bs political excuses; bad zoning, bad building regulation, bad union rules, bad health regulations, bad drug laws, civil legal liability, cost of Rx drugs ... as if government doesnt have have power to fix those things. it's a feigned helplessness because the poor inherently have no political leverage/value to those in power.


The intractable problem is that helping the homeless is seen as moral hazard by a large segment of the American populace. Our programs are incoherent because some want to provide assistance and others to withhold it.


Great strides in helping the homeless can be achieved by giving them housing. It almost sounds like a tautology, and it triggers outrage in certain segments of the population, but once people have that stable foundation they can then work towards rebuilding their life.


>IMO solving this problem is by no means "simple".

I think providing people housing is simple. It's just expensive.


With the hundreds of millions SF spends on the homeless, it could be fair to say that a large number of homeless don’t want “care” or “re-housing.” The city spends more and more and it doesn’t make a dent in the numbers. An objective observer might suggest that the more you subsidize something, the more of it you get. Compared to most places, it’s easier to be homeless in San Francisco, which could create a disincentive for the homeless to care about getting off the street.


i agree SF needs less coddling and way stronger sticks (at least for the young & able-bodied), but fundamentally theres no where for these people to go to try to get it together. cost of housing way above welfare/SSID in a 50 mile radius. there's zero net shelter space. because the political incentives on the west coast (nimby, mellow weather, already high taxes) are to not bother to build them.

theres also not enough jail space or PD headcount, so dealers, petty burglars just cycle in and out without consequence. its a vicious cycle of extreme poverty that starts and ends with a corrupt, poorly run local government


Phoenix AZ was running a program like this decades ago. They'd tell the homeless about the great weather and services in San Diego, and put them on the bus -- no arrangements at all on the receiving end. Then they started getting phone calls from SD city hall...


IMO this is exactly what we ought to do. A big problem for the homeless is that they become poor in a place with no jobs for them, and then they get stuck. There are lots of places with shortages of the kind of labor they can offer, and making travel easier for them is a great thing to help fix that market failure.


With unemployment this low there are plenty of entry level jobs people can get into in every city in the country. I live in Seattle and I see people out begging to give people entry level/beginner jobs by the light rail stations and all around the city, but homelessness is still on the rise. Bussing them elsewhere doesn't help when they still don't have a home, a bathroom/shower, clean clothes, food, etc.

Bussing them out is just an idea done by the rich so they don't have to see the homeless any longer.


> With unemployment this low there are plenty of entry level jobs people can get into in every city in the country. I live in Seattle and I see people out begging to give people entry level/beginner jobs by the light rail stations and all around the city, but homelessness is still on the rise.

If that were actually true, then there wouldn't be a homeless problem. The unemployment rate doesn't count these people. The unemployment rate only counts people who are 'actively looking' for a new job. People who aren't looking at all don't show up in the statistics.

> Bussing them elsewhere doesn't help when they still don't have a home, a bathroom/shower, clean clothes, food, etc.

Let's be careful about the conjugation of that verb. The city is not bussing them anywhere. The city is offering them free bus tickets, if they believe they will be happier elsewhere. If they want to stay, they stay. If they want to leave, they leave.

> Bussing them out is just an idea done by the rich so they don't have to see the homeless any longer.

It's really not. They're not being forced out. They're just being given free tickets if they want them.


> The unemployment rate only counts people who are 'actively looking' for a new job. People who aren't looking at all don't show up in the statistics.

That's entirely incorrect. We track all of these layers in fact.

We have the labor force participation rate, which is available further separated out into groups, such as by age or race. We track the employment to population ratio.

We have the U3, U5, U6 unemployment statistics, which track labor based on various conditions, whether full-time, part-time, discouraged, etc.

We track how many people total are employed full-time or part-time. We know how many hours they're working.

We track multiple job holders.

We track how many people are not in the labor force.

We track the flow of labor in and out of the labor force.

And we track all of these statistics for different age groups, men & women, races, etc.

For one big example, the prime working age 25-54 civilian labor force participation rate. Considered a critical measure of labor force health. It bottomed out at 80.6% in 2015 and has since climbed back to 82.3% as of October, slightly below where it was in 2004-05.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LNS11300060


> That's entirely incorrect. We track all of these layers in fact.

No....it is entirely correct. The unemployment rate that was quoted was exactly as I described. I didn't say the other statistics weren't tracked, I said the statistic quoted above, and the thing commonly referred to as "the unemployment rate" does not count it.


You said "People who aren't looking at all don't show up in the statistics."

Why would a reasonable reader assume that "statistics" means "specifically U3 unemployment"?


Because the standard meaning of 'unemployment rate' is 'U3 unemployment rate'. I and many other people believe that it shouldn't be that way, but it is. When people quote 'the unemployment rate', they mean 'U3', without exception.


Stop being obtuse, it's not like the first guy specifically said "The U3 unemployment rate".

The point he was making though can be made even if the OP was referencing U3 which is if the fundamentals are looking better for employees (Which can be inferred from improving U3 numbers) then why are we seeing higher homelessness?


> Stop being obtuse, it's not like the first guy specifically said "The U3 unemployment rate".

Are you seriously trying to insist that he could possibly have meant anything other than U3? The common meaning of 'unemployment rate' is U3. Google 'current unemployment rate' right now, and Google will tell you 3.7. Aka U3.

> The point he was making though can be made even if the OP was referencing U3 which is if the fundamentals are looking better for employees (Which can be inferred from improving U3 numbers) then why are we seeing higher homelessness?

Because the population looking for work and the population falling into homelessness are not the same population! Which is exactly the point I was making about U3. There is a massive population that has left the workforce completely, many of them are subsisting on disability or some other unknown way. It is highly likely that those people are the ones primarily falling into homelessness.


Having a home is frequently a prerequisite to be able to

A: show up to work on time

B: be groomed

C: establish a pattern of living

It’s hard to go to work not knowing if your car will be towed. Granted, where people COULD afford to live isn’t the city centers, where the services are and where people congregate. And the suburbs don’t want them either. Pretty sad state of affairs - we need to provide a real safety net so people aren’t stuck below the line of employability.


D: Get a job in the first place.

Putting a homeless shelter or no address at all on your work application is a great way to get it sent straight to the circular file.

Even living in public housing can be a job killer if the addresses are well known enough. People at Cabrini Green had to hope they had a relative that would allow them to use their address to apply for jobs with, and hope on top of that the public housing officials wouldn't find out about it.


Yes, there are jobs in every city, but in major cities there is difficulty in finding housing and transportation. The cost of living is also high, so it's easy to get into debt. Whereas in smaller cities, it's typically easier to get on your feet because housing is more accessible, transportation is better, and the general CoL is a lot lower.


True, but this combined with brain drain creates a lot of perverse incentives and drives a further wealth divide.

For example, many low tax base areas accumulate a population with more problems that have higher tax rates, insurance rates, etc (and a more strained social net) than a rich city.

It is important to make sure rich areas are at least paying some of the costs they create in selectively pushing people out or creating bottlenecks to set a minimum CoL on who comes in.


You recognize that given this bus ticket opportunity, the homeless will actually converge on rich coastal cities, right? This problem is actually worse for the rich people that live in places like LA and SF.


The rule of having a place to stay in most of the programs causes the counter examples in the article.


Yep, but that still doesn't support the grandparent's point.


Then I'm not sure we are talking about the same things.

Everything in the article and this thread seems consistent with these programs actively running for rich coastal cities to return people or send them to places where their friends have space to spare.. That doesn't sound like Manhattan.

A convergence on rich cities getting more people is a possibility.. But the richer cities are setting precedents, have actual budgets for these things and regulations tend only to increase.


> Everything in the article and this thread seems consistent with these programs actively running for rich coastal cities to return people or send them to places where their friends have space to spare.. That doesn't sound like Manhattan.

It seems just as likely to be a rich coastal city as anywhere else, tbh. The article makes a point of saying that they only do the most cursory of checks anyway, so we can basically assume they're meaningless.

> A convergence on rich cities getting more people is a possibility.. But the richer cities are setting precedents, have actual budgets for these things and regulations tend only to increase.

It's certainly a possibility. But I don't know if you live in a rich coastal city, but I do, and the homeless problem here is out of control. The homeless population in rich coastal cities is empirically growing very quickly, and it is not growing in the same way in other places, consistent with net migration of homeless into rich coastal areas, not the other way around.

These bussing policies have been in place for a while, and there is no epidemic of homeless leaving SF and setting up shop in Des Moines. So while it may theoretically be possible for this to increase flow in the way you describe, despite the policies being in place for a good while, that is empirically not what is happening.


That's OK, but it seems reasonable to follow up on whether the bus ticket was useful or not.

Otherwise it's just conveniently moving the problem elsewhere.


Well, keep in mind the agency here. This isn't the city 'moving' anyone, these are people who are choosing to move themselves. I don't see why the city ought even have the responsibility to ensure they have somewhere to stay. Let them go where they want.


I hope you realize the inverse of the problem you posit here: Why should other cities be forced to bear the burden of homeless people being shipped to them?

The end result of your logic would essentially lead to caravans of homeless people because it would be cheaper to give them a bus pass and a pat on the back rather than take care of their own responsibilities. The idea that they have agency in this case is a facade because then the city could deny them care under the guise of 'well we gave them a chance for a better opportunity and they denied it'. It seems to be a uniquely American thing to ignore actually addressing the damn problem in favor of making it someone else's problem.


Nobody is denying them care. Their choices are being strictly expanded here, not restricted. You think they would be better off if they did not have the option of these tickets?


To say that they're not being denied care is objectively wrong. Don't be disingenuous.

The city that they reside in is effectively denying them care. The tickets are an excuse to push them out of the city so that they don't actually have to give them proper care. If they weren't being denied care for whatever reasons, then there wouldn't be a reason to bus them out to other cities, now would there?

This is EXACTLY what happened when Nevada gave discharged patients from a mental health hospital one-way bus tickets out of town. They were given bus tickets and advised to seek health care elsewhere and were sued because of this program. So let's not ignore the fact that this actually occurs.


> If they weren't being denied care for whatever reasons, then there wouldn't be a reason to bus them out to other cities, now would there?

Well, one reason from TFA is so they can go back to where they have a friends/family support network. People actually do this on their own, parents get their kid a ticket on the Greyhound so they don't end up on/get off the streets. Happens a lot.

Given a choice between staying homeless where you happen to be or going somewhere where you have a fighting chance people seem to be going with the latter.

> They were given bus tickets and advised to seek health care elsewhere and were sued because of this program.

One alleged abusive program and this means they all share the same motivation?

Prisons do the exact same thing BTW.


> The city that they reside in is effectively denying them care. The tickets are an excuse to push them out of the city so that they don't actually have to give them proper care. If they weren't being denied care for whatever reasons, then there wouldn't be a reason to bus them out to other cities, now would there?

What? How is giving them a free ticket pushing them anywhere? They're not being forced to take it.

> This is EXACTLY what happened when Nevada gave discharged patients from a mental health hospital one-way bus tickets out of town. They were given bus tickets and advised to seek health care elsewhere and were sued because of this program. So let's not ignore the fact that this actually occurs.

It is not even close to that. That was people being put onto these buses after being kicked out of hospitals. These are people who have already been living homelessly in the city, and the city saying "here, IF YOU WANT THIS, you can have a free ticket wherever you need to go".

This is a strict expansion of their autonomy, to paint it any other way is ludicrous.


An example from the article:

> He was told the family was ineligible for services because they had housing options elsewhere, notably in Puerto Rico with his partner’s mother. To officials in New York, steering the family into accommodation instead of the city homeless system was the most sensible option. Ortiz’s decision to take the airline ticket was voluntary, but he did not feel he had much choice given the alternative likely meant sleeping in the park or on a street corner.


That is an entirely unrelated issue to the bus tickets.


No, let's get one thing straight here. These situations occur when we encourage the movement of homeless or mentally ill populations between states because they don't want to bother fixing the core problem.

As for the people in the Nevada case they were offered a choice by the hospital: They could be discharged early if they took a bus ticket to another state, and could leave even earlier if they had family/friends there. These were people given a choice, something that you mention as being incredibly important. Their autonomy was increased, was it not? They were not forced into taking the ticket.

Of course they were coerced, naturally. That's why I think your argument about choice ends up being complete bunk, because often there isn't a real 'choice' for many of these homeless people. For people who may have trouble making a well-informed choice due to poverty or mental illness or any other reason, to act like they have a full choice in the matter is ignorance.


> No, let's get one thing straight here. These situations occur when we encourage the movement of homeless or mentally ill populations between states because they don't want to bother fixing the core problem.

I think they, and I, would argue that a big part of the problem is that people become stuck in places that don't have opportunity or support networks for them. Helping them go to those places is an important step in fixing the problem in an organic way.

> As for the people in the Nevada case they were offered a choice by the hospital: They could be discharged early if they took a bus ticket to another state, and could leave even earlier if they had family/friends there. These were people given a choice, something that you mention as being incredibly important. Their autonomy was increased, was it not? They were not forced into taking the ticket.

I don't know the details of that case, but if they were said "hey you can leave early if you take this bus ticket", I see no problem with that.

> Of course they were coerced, naturally.

Erm, what? Where, exactly is the coercion? Here's the situation: I am walking down the street and come across a homeless man. I say "Hey man, if you need a bus ticket somewhere, i'd be happy to buy it for you". Where exactly does the coercion happen? Is buying someone a bus ticket that they ask for coercive when the state does it? Does that make food stamps coercion?


>But he maintained the policy was justified to discourage abuse – a point echoed by his former deputy, Mike Tolbert, who said it was the only way to prevent the shelter from being used as a “travel agency”.

Why not simply restrict the free travel ticket a second time? Instead of the basic necessities like food and shelter?

Writing that out makes even less sense once you think it through, however.

If the goal of the city is to relieve itself of homeless people, they should offer as many free bus tickets out of town as homeless people can ask for... Even multiple tickets in a row... Becoming that dreaded "travel agency" that Mike Tolbert warns about.

Surely it would be less expensive to pay for a second free bus ticket than to pay two police officers to arrest the same person 3+ times in a row for sleeping on the beach... And eventually the person might find a city or town that caters to their needs better than their first destination might have and end up staying.


So taxpayers just keep paying for tickets until the person figures things out? If they know it’s a one way ticket and returning could result in an arrest for vagrancy, that seems to be a pretty strong incentive to stay away. The Key West man in the story admitted that he didn’t think they were serious. Well, they were.

I am not arguing other points of the story, only saying that as a taxpayer, unlimited free bus tickets to anywhere doesn’t sound like a fair deal for the people who pay taxes.

Homelessness is a tragedy for some and a lifestyle for others, that’s just a fact. Being homeless doesn’t somehow make you free of accountability for your actions: you sign an agreement, that should mean something.


A lot of "homeless" people are actually "people suffering mental illness who haven't had adequate treatment".

It seems crazy to you to think that somebody giving you a free bus ticket out of town isn't serious about your not being able to return... but to a mentally ill human being it's not so cut and dry.


Compared to the millions big cities spend trying to combat homelessness, free bus tickets seem like a bargain.


I really appreciate the amount of data and what felt like an objective view on both sides of the issue, some folks greatly benefited whereas it was problematic for others.

Ultimately it landed in needing more data, immense respect for that type of data driven journalism.

Really love the visuals added as well!


Reminded me of this story about Puerto Rico's practice of sending those with addictions to Chicago:

http://interactive.wbez.org/puertoricochicagopipeline/


An interesting, yet depressing story. Quite a nuanced look at a complex issue. The portaits of the homeless people involved helped humanize an otherwise abstract problem.

The graphics and web design are very cool, definitely enhancing the story. The Guardian seems to be taking a page from The NY Times recently.


The Guardian has been doing this for many years. I don't know when it started, but there are some examples linked from this overview from 2011.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/mar/28/data-v...


Weird, I experienced the interactivity as completely broken on iOS Chrome. I couldn’t even scroll properly to just read the article.


I also hit that issue on android. Had to keep scrolling on a text portion of the page until it skipped past the chart.


> The graphics and web design are very cool, definitely enhancing the story.

The web design is not intuitive. Why the need to break the browser's most basic functionality of vertical scrolling. The chart "visualizing" the data in 3 stages made me think the page was at the bottom. The animation finished, and then I tried to scroll past, except nothing happened. I had to continue "scrolling" to get the page to not move but have the next stage of animation start. Also, scrolling text over background text just looks confusing


Homelessness and lack of sufficient housing supply which drives the affordability problem is a national crisis. We need national solutions. We need to build more transit and more housing near that transit. We need to build denser and more towards the core. We need to not neglect the inner cities. America has the power to build better cities and solve this problem together.

Affordability and skyrocketing rent costs will improve if we work harder to increase the supply of housing near transit points. We need to act on this issue quickly.


Lack of housing is one reason, but don't think it is the only one.

In Denmark there is no reason for anyone to be homeless by purely economic reasons, but we still have about 6500 out of a pop. of 5.77M


It's not a national problem, in fact it is extremely regional. It has to due with unnecessary restriction on building in those regions -- primarily to benefit current property owners.


I wonder to what extent poor non-homeless populations are similarly shifted around the country, albeit more slowly?

A city in New Hampshire used federal funds to build low-income housing. Which attracted low-income people. Who disproportionately used city services. Which cost more than the added taxes and federal funds which came with them. So the city bought low-income housing. And tore it down. Which seems analogous to buying bus tickets out of town?


Erm, which city? I just moved here.


Not in the low income housing section, I hope


do you have a link to this?


No, sorry, conversation with principals. Many years ago.


I’d vaguely heard of this before, a lot of friends and coworkers here in SF have said things like “you know that _____ just puts homeless on a one-way bus to San Francisco, that’s why it’s so bad here.” I thought it was an urban legend.

I was surprised and honestly amused to discover that this is real, but that it goes in the other direction, with SF bussing out ~10k homeless people in the last decade. Wow.


How much of homelessness is a result of laws hampering construction, such as zoning laws, building restrictions, rent control, which lead to housing costs significantly higher than what a free market would provide?


I think not a lot.


Some portion of the people experiencing homelessness is due to their being unable to afford housing in the city of their choice. Certainly, being unable to afford housing isn't helping anyone. But, as you so correctly note, it's almost certainly not the dominant factor.

With that said, there's some room for subtlety around land-use questions. For instance, land-use regulation can make it very difficult to build a shelter or a mental health treatment center. When the infrastructure to get people off the streets cannot be built, the most vulnerable among us will tend to stay where they are.


Cities with services often attract homeless and people looking for a better deal. My dad ran a section 8 program, and his backlog plunged when NYC started accepting more people... you could wait months upstate or show up in Brooklyn and be in a free temporary placement in hours or days.

Other places will mention this to clients. South Carolina was pretty notorious for giving sick Medicaid patients to northeast states with enhanced Medicaid in the past, for example.


While they should definitely consider serving up a more static version for mobile (couldn't scroll on Firefox Android), the experience of reading this article on my desktop was truly awesome.

I absolutely loved the graphics, cinemagraphs, and entire experience, and really do think it added immensely to the story itself.

Is there a name for this style of article? Do they use some existing JS library or is it all hand crafted?


We call them "big scrollies" in my newsroom, I have also seen the format referred to as "Scrollytelling". There are a few libraries such as graph-scroll and scrolllama which work well with d3 specifically, but otherwise you can just make your own.


Scrolling even on desktop was janky for me, and it was hard to center the paragraphs that were supposed to overlay the maps.


Goes to show just how broken the web is lately. I quit web dev after 20 years in the industry because it was frustrating me so much. I pretty much exclusively deal with hardware now and love that if I solder everything right, and put everything where it's supposed to, it works, and anything wrong with it is usually my fault or a broken component.

Worked perfectly on Firefox Developer Edition / Windows 10. Was smooth and I didn't notice a single issue, FWIW.


The guy from Key West is bummed because he can't go back to the shelter he was living at. His plan was to return there, even as a fallback. He was COUNTING on it being there for him.

I think that's part of the problem.


Does anyone else find that it especially easy to accidentally click ads on The Guardian whilst browsing on mobile? I don't get it with other sites. If so, I wonder what they have done to make that the case?

I'm generally less annoyed by the Guardian site than many, so don't bother with 'Reader View'


Having to download HD videos an many MB of other stuff to read few pages of text on poverty.

Oh the sad irony :(


The US lacks a true mental healthcare system, and not even a healthcare system available to the poor. Not a surprise that cities just move the problem around, what can they do? It's a national problem with zero national coordination or resources.


That isn’t true at all. Just a quick google search reveals a plethora of indigent care along with Medicaid as well as faith-based organizations. We should be more outraged at the VA system.




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