The Grace Resource Center in Lancaster, California has spent $2,500 since January on a program that buys one-way bus tickets for homeless individuals in the town and the mayor has donated $10,000 of his own money to the program.
Steve Baker, the center’s director and a pastor for three decades explains:
We’re not in the business of shipping people out of here. We’re in the ministry of compassion. We know that God can turn people’s lives around. When I see that they are sort of jogging in place . . . I ask the question: ‘Do you have a relative anywhere?’
The article cites Baker stating that he talks to more than two dozen people each day who come to the center seeking advice or assistance.
There are an estimated 73,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, with about 2,000 of those in the Antelope Valley, which includes the city of Lancaster. With a population of just over 145,000, Lancaster is the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County and the ninth-fastest growing city in the United States (Source).
First, if all a homeless individual needed was to be close to his/her relatives, I don’t think there would be nearly as much homelessness as there is.
Second, just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean that A) they are able to support you physically, emotionally, or financially; and B) they will have a positive effect on your well-being.
Third, the article makes no mention of the Center making any efforts to reach out to these supposed support systems before they ship these individuals off.
If the Center really was concerned about getting these people back on their feet, wouldn’t they do everything in their power – like making some calls to arrange for the arrival of this individual – to assist the individual?
Well the Center does provide services like meals, showers, counseling, and shelter to those in the area, it seems as though the individuals who choose the bus pass program get just that: a bus pass and nothing else. Cheap, basic steps that could significantly increase a homeless individual’s rate of success in a new, unfamiliar town – like making an initial call to the family, compiling the names and addresses of local shelters, providing internet access to look for jobs in their new town – are being ignored for the quick, Band-Aid solution: bus tickets out of town. A solution that highlights the Center’s real goal: getting the homeless out of their town. Period.
If the individual doesn’t have a relative they know of, Baker asks another question: “If you could go anywhere in the country and start over, where would you go?”
Source: Homeless in Lancaster get free tickets to go away (LA Times)