May 28, 2004

Housing crunch

If Philip Mangano, Bush's homelessness czar, has some clever ideas for alleviating homelessness, I say go right ahead:
The Bush Administration proposes to solve the problem by beginning with the hardest cases: the 10 percent who are severe addicts or mentally ill, and consume half of all resources devoted to homeless shelters. Mangano believes that by moving these chronic cases into "supportive housing"—a private room or apartment where they would receive support services and psychotropic medications—the government could actually save money, and free up tens of thousands of shelter beds.
Douglas McGray-- the author of the article-- wonders whether liberals will oppose this strand of compassionate conservatism. I see no reason to. Andrew Cuomo, apaprently, has protested that the administration is focusing on only a special subclass of homeless people. But this sort of discrimination makes perfect sense-- as Ken Auletta showed in The Underclass, there exists a core group of intractable persons below the poverty line, those who need much more than the usual handout.

On the other hand, Mangano's strategy doesn't redeem Bush's proposal to slash $1 billion from the Section 8 rent assistance program. It's possible to focus on the hard core homeless and help those struggling on the poverty line. There's no need to squelch the latter to pursue the former; the two groups are entirely separate. In general, families that qualify for Section 8 vouchers pay 30% of their rent, and the program usually gives priority to single mothers and battered women.

So, y'know, it makes sense to take shelters away from the intractables and give them supportive housing. That balances out. It doesn't make sense to take housing away from a completely unrelated group of people. Yeah?
-- Brad Plumer 11:45 PM || ||