Homeless relocation schemes exist in major cities and counties around the United States. People who are homeless are put on a bus or a train with a one way ticket out of cities, sometimes being sent thousands of miles away to poorer communities. Thousands of people are relocated every year.
Sometimes the relocation schemes provide needed assistance for populations at risk. Sending them to family or friends, more substantive support networks and opportunities, but that is far from the whole story. A lot of the time it is simply a cheap and effective way for wealthier cities to move homeless populations out. Homeless shelters around the country know the scheme well, welcoming new arrivals who were sent out of rich towns and cities to poorer areas. Sometimes instead of being jailed a person will be told they can have a ticket out of town.
A Guardian investigative report exposed the scale of the scheme “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.” Many people who are relocated end up back on the streets of the towns they are sent to.
Programs rarely check in with homeless people after they have been sent away, out of sight, out of mind. In some locations the relocation schemes are even worse, forcing the relocation applicant to sign a contract that their relocation is permanent and they won’t be coming back.
The investigation analyzed data from 2010 to 2017 provided by the homeless relocation programs from 16 major cities across the United States. The majority of the programs were in California, San Francisco, Humboldt County, Chico, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and Long Beach. The study included four cities in Florida: Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Key West. Data was also provided by New York, Phoenix, Denver, Reno, Salt Lake City, and Portland Oregon.
From these 16 locations, more than 20,000 homeless people had been sent away as part of homeless relocation programs during the study period. The vast majority, 88 percent of the homeless people, were relocated to cities with lower median incomes than their point of origin.
San Francisco’s numbers reveal the city has been using the homeless relocation scheme as a depopulation program to rid the city of homeless people. A cheap way for one of the wealthiest cities on earth to marginalize an at risk population and save itself some money. More than 10,000 homeless people have been cast out of the city. In San Francisco, the investigation found that approximately half of the remaining 7,000 homeless people, the city claims to be helping, were only given bus tickets.