Fort Lauderdale Commissioners have approved a program that will buy one-way bus tickets out of the state for homeless people who can prove they have family willing to provide them shelter in other parts of the country.
The new project, called the Homeless Reunification Program, will be paid for by the Florida Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which consists of money seized from criminals convicted in the state.
Claudia Tuck, Palm Beach County Division Director for Human and Veteran Services, told MSNBC the program wasn't just about "putting someone on a bus." She said a request for a bus ticket from the $25,000 program would not be approved until they verified the homeless person has explored all their options and has somewhere to go.
"It's very specific to helping somebody who really doesn't want to be here. They've come here, things didn't work out, and they have a support system somewhere else but don't have means to get there and that person doesn't have the means to get them there either."
Homeless advocates who oppose the bus ticket program say it will not fix the problem, and simply redistributes it to other parts of the nation where employment and housing prospects are just as grim.
Neil Donovan, Executive Director of the National Homeless Coalition told the Sun-Sentinel, "I think cities that embark on that as a course of action, like Fort Lauderdale, like New York City, like San Francisco, the nature of that is quite transparent, to move their problem onto somebody else's doorstep. I'm way more than suspicious. I don't believe that the stated purpose of the program is in fact the goal of the city."
Fort Lauderdale officials don't agree. They say they are only thinking in the best interests of the homeless person by offering them a Greyhound ticket to any city served by the bus carrier. Their goal is to move them to a healthy, positive environment, says a police spokesman.
"We're not pushing them out," Mayor Jack Seiler said. "If somebody has a network of support, a group of family and friends that will provide for them back home, that's probably a good place for them to be."
The program is not the first of its kind in the South Florida region. The New Times blog reports Broward County has a similar program and buses out 5 to 10 people per week, with a backlog of over 100 waiting applicants.