MORE ON HOUSING FIRST. On Friday, I talked a bit about the Bush administration's Housing First program, a legitimately worthwhile policy initiative where the toughest homeless cases are given permanent, private housing without any expectation of behavioral modification. These are the toughest, most stubborn cases, the ones who've been in treatment six or more times, yet continue to live on the streets, using heavily and racking up enormous health and crime costs. The question for policymakers is always whether they can bear offering something for nothing, opportunity without responsibility, even if it'll be cheaper and safer for the community.
Today, The New York Times reports on Seattle's interpretation of the program, and it's worth the read. This is bleak stuff, but it's better and cheaper than the alternative. What a shame, then, to hear that the local bloviating talk show hosts are calling it "Bunks for drunks -- [a] living monument to failed social policy, [that's] aiding and abetting someone's self-destruction." Obviously what we should be doing is watching from the sidelines as they self-immolate, not attempting to ease their pain and lower society's costs.