There's a very interesting and highly researched article in the Guardian about American cities who are dealing with their homeless population by buying them one-way bus tickets out of the city. The authors have really done their homework on this, tracking down participants in the program to find out what happened after they were bussed away—where they eventually landed, and if their situation (or the situation of their new home) was improved. From the Guardian:
While the stated goal of San Francisco’s Homeward Bound and similar programs is helping people, the schemes also serve the interests of cities, which view free bus tickets as a cheap and effective way of cutting their homeless populations.
People are routinely sent thousands of miles away after only a cursory check by authorities to establish they have a suitable place to stay once they get there. Some said they feel pressured into taking tickets, and others described ending up on the streets within weeks of their arrival.
Jeff Weinberger, co-founder of the Florida Homelessness Action Coalition, a not-for-profit that operates in a state with four bus programs, said the schemes are a “smoke-and-mirrors ruse tantamount to shifting around the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than reducing homelessness”.
“Once they get you out of their city, they really don’t care what happens to you.”
That being said, the Guardian's investigation did turn up some success stories where the recipients found greener pastures following their move—though other programs did little to check up on the people they sent away, often to more dangerous situations.
Portland instituted a relocation program in 2016, which had some rather controversial elements (read our reporting on the program here and here). The city's policy is to follow up with the recipients to see how they're doing after three months—where according to this report from KGW, some were doing okay, while others were definitely not. Needless to say, a person's situation could change drastically after three short months.
The Guardian article also does a great job of visually representing how many communities only have their interests in mind when dealing with their homeless population, and are all too happy to shove their problems into towns and cities that are ill equipped to handle the sudden influx. Again, from the Guardian.
It is a stark example of a pattern that is replicated through most of the journeys, which, analysis shows, have the overall effect of moving homeless people from rich places to poorer places.
Check out the article, it's illuminating.