In our nation’s capital, the homeless shelters are on the outskirts of town, but all of the good panhandling spots are downtown. So the District of Columbia runs 10 buses, at the cost of $1.8 million, so that homeless people can commute.
Each morning, the District government operates a kind of free mini-Metro for the homeless, connecting the city’s increasingly outlying network of shelters with soup kitchens, social service bureaus and preferred panhandling blocks closer to downtown.
Then, each evening, the homeless commuters join the outbound flow. With the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on G Street NW serving as a depot, 10 scheduled buses load up to take the homeless back to shelters on the outskirts of town. The city spends about $1.8 million a year on transportation for the homeless, including the daily buses and a hypothermia van that patrols the streets on wintry nights.
“This just fits into an overall notion that being homeless doesn’t eliminate your need to get to and from places to conduct your life,” said Clarence H. Carter, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, which funds the bus system through a subcontractor. “Everybody’s got to commute.”
If this rubs you the wrong way, are you being insensitive to the plight of the poor? Or is it this program that is insensitive to the plight of the poor by, in effect, subsidizing and thus perpetuating homelessness?