10.05.2006

The Do-Gooders are Short-Circuiting the System

I don't often like to just copy/paste from other places, no matter how
good the writing is. Where's the value-added, after all? But I
couldn't resist posting this excerpt from Otis White's Urban Notebook,
in which he discusses LA's approach to the homeless:

"Which brings us to a city that has done most things right,
Philadelphia. Philly has built enough shelters and provided sufficient
services to dramatically reduce its downtown homeless population. But
even so, it has noticed the number of people sleeping outdoors creep
up in recent months.

"What's causing the rise? Downtown officials aren't sure but think it
could be the result of do-gooders (college kids and suburban church
groups, for the most part) staging public feedings. And this gets to
the heart of what makes the Philadelphia approach work: It doesn't
engage in charity. Services for the homeless, including food, are
earned by good behavior, which means taking medications, living in
shelters, visiting job counselors and so on. The do-gooders are
short-circuiting the system.

"'They think they're helping when they're not,' one downtown
association official told the Philadelphia Inquirer. 'Food should
always be connected with the opportunity to get help. They enable
people to remain on the street. It's enabling people to remain
addicted. We are not helping ourselves as a city if we encourage and
enable these [homeless] camps.'"

A blog that sings Philly's praise and argues that there's no free
lunch (literally)? That shines a spotlight on exemplary local orgs
like Project HOME and the Center City District? That uses the
sentence, "The do-gooders are short-circuiting the system"?
Copy/paste-worthy. (By the way, here's the Inquirer article the post
refers to: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/15536080.htm.)

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