Starting April 1, Massachusetts will deny shelter to homeless families through a number of draconian new rules. If families have been evicted or left public housing "without good cause" in the last three years, they're out. If they have earned above the poverty level for three straight months, they're out (the current rule is six months). If they don't work 30 hours per week and save 30 percent of their income, they're out. If they are absent from a shelter for two nights in a row, they're out. If a family's only children are between 18 and 21 and aren't disabled or in high school, they're out.
(more after the jump)
Massachusetts is sheltering more families than ever before this month, 2,700 in all, which makes it a strange time to introduce regulations limiting who can get shelter. The rules will save the state an infinitesimal amount of money over the next two years -- $11 million out of a $28 billion budget -- 0.0004 percent. A bigger goal is to push families out of the state's 59 shelters so that families who've been waiting in motels paid for by the state (about 25 percent of all the homeless families) can move in. (Does no one see the coming cycle of being pushed out of shelters, struggling, winding up in motels and then back in shelters?)
In what was either a serious judgment lapse or a display of her naivete, the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance, Julia E. Kehoe, told the Boston Globe, "Given our limited resources, we wanted to encourage people to find housing or stay where they are, rather than encouraging them to come into the system." I assure you, Ms. Kehoe, no one comes to a shelter because it sounds like fun.
Meanwhile, in Miami, the powers that be are considering banning feeding the homeless, because it's too messy. A $300 fine could be instated for doing so.
And now Seattle
By Vanessa Ho
Homeless advocates swiftly denounced a new anti-panhandling ordinance proposed by Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, who floated the idea of $50 fines for aggressive panhandlers in a package of proposals designed to quell downtown street crime and disorder.
Burgess announced the ordinance Thursday along with a call for more cops, foot patrols, outreach efforts and housing for homeless people. Many downtown merchants and residents -- tired of increasing crime, drug dealing and harassing panhandlers -- cheered the ideas.
But John Fox, coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition - an advocacy group for low-income and homeless people - said the ordinance is so broad that could end up targeting Real Change vendors and Salvation Army volunteers.
This is all starting to look like new ways to generate revenue via fines. Fine people for feeding the homeless, fine people for panhandling. Well, all well and good as long as we don't raise taxes on the rich, eh?