Saturday, March 20, 2010

Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars

New York Times article "Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars" (March 19th, 2010) fails to note the contradictory forces present when one tries to helping the homeless.

Tim Marx, the executive director of Common Ground, a nonprofit organization that provides homeless street outreach services in Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Manhattan, said he was not surprised by the increase.

“It just says that we have to keep up our efforts and intensify them,” Mr. Marx said. “The more people we have on the streets, the more they are making demands of our emergency shelter system, emergency rooms, detox centers and jails.”

The times should also note, as Corrections does here that intensifying outreach programs (subsidizing poverty in New York city limits) removes disincentives for marginal individuals to become homeless, removes incentives for the currently-homeless to change their lifestyle, and perhaps most pertinently gives incentives for the homeless to migrate to New York.

As an interesting side note, the solution to ending poverty locally would seem quite clear to Corrections: end all local welfare programs. Indeed, Corrections is surprised that the sort of Prisoner's Dilemma payoffs that local politicians face to solve their poverty program by encouraging the homeless to migrate (a localized Mariel boatlift of sorts) does not appear to take place very often.

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