Since February 2005, The City has provided nearly 10,000 homeless residents Greyhound bus tickets — also a $10 per travel day allowance for food — to cities across the United States under Homeward Bound, the bus ticket home program, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act. The total number bused fluctuates each year from a low of 815 to a high of 942. That amounts to an average of more than two homeless people every day that San Francisco ships out via Greyhound.
I first wrote favorably about this program way back in 2005 (Bus therapy for the homeless) in response to criticism that it wasn't really a solution to the city's homeless problem. Not surprising that Jennifer Friedenbach is critical of the program:
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said she finds nothing wrong with providing the bus tickets but is critical of The City beefing up case managers. “It’s not providing housing for people. It’s just a bus ticket,” Friedenbach said. “Spending that much money on case managers to give people bus tickets, that part is super wasteful.” She added, “The bus tickets themselves are fine. It’s a nice service for people. The folks who need it appreciate it. [But] it’s certainly not a strategy that should be included as part of ending homelessness.” The lack of tracking what happens to the bus ticket recipient makes the service especially troubling, Friedenbach emphasized. “There’s just some phoniness to the idea that this is addressing what most people think of as our homeless problem, when you are basically providing transportation for travelers,” she said.
Surely there have to be case managers to handle the process. The Coalition has always maintained that the only way to deal with the problem is to provide every homeless person who ends up in San Francisco with housing. Clearly that's impossible, even for a prosperous city like this.
Before anyone is given a bus ticket, the city contacts someone on the other end to meet them:
A review of the data by the Examiner found that since February 2005, 9,917 people were bused out of town under Homeward Bound. The names of participants are confidential. Participants may be referred to the program by police officers, Public Works employees and other outreach workers. The City bused one third of the homeless participants — some 3,123 — to friends. Another 1,945 homeless residents were bused home to their mothers; sisters received 826 homeless people, and fathers received 634.
The city indulges in some mild deception when it counts those bused out as "housed" on their scorecard. Otherwise, it's hard to see any serious objections to this program.
Other Examiner stories on homelessness.
Labels: City Government, Examiner, Homelessness, Homeward Bound