Giving The Homeless A One Way Ticket "Home" - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Giving The Homeless A One Way Ticket "Home"

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If you take a trip to downtown San Diego, you may be seeing fewer homeless people sleeping and hanging around. There is a very good reason for that. For the last year, there has been a fairly successful but controversial effort to deal with homelessness in the city by basically shipping those on the street someplace else. It's called the "Work Your Way Home Program." The name is somewhat misleading. The campaign doesn't actually offer the homeless employment opportunities. Instead, the homeless person signs a waiver agreeing to accept a one way ticket "home," where a family member or a friend has already agreed to take him or her in.

The program is sponsored and funded by businesses from the Downtown San Diego Partnership and those behind it insist that it works. So far 117 have been given one way tickets to places where they have family or friends, some as far away as Delaware. And apparently none of them has come back. Some of those who have accepted the one way tickets have been out of touch with their relatives for more than a decade.

While it sounds on the surface like a "win win" situation, critics don't like it one bit. They correctly point out that many homeless people have mental issues and/or addiction problems that their families or friends may not be prepared to address. Shipping people out of the city like unwanted merchandise they say, is not a solution and seems somewhat sinister. Supporters dispute that arguing those on the streets who agree to sign the waiver are screened to make sure they are suitable candidates.

Having volunteered at homeless shelters in Los Angeles for 15 years, I confess I'm torn. The idealistic side of me loves the notion of reuniting those on the streets with caring family members. But the cynical side of me makes me wonder whether the program is simply a thinly veiled attempt to make the homeless in San Diego someone else' problem, regardless of the eventual fallout.

San Diego is not the only city to implement such a program. And the fact that I and others are so conflicted about it, illustrates just how emotional the homeless issue is and why viable solutions are so difficult to find.

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