By Bob Difley
A group of researchers in the homeless-plagued city of Seattle in collaboration with the Seattle and King County Housing Authorities enacted a test program in an attempt to attack the seriousness of America’s homeless problem, reports Dylan Matthews for the Vox.
One of the researchers, economist Raj Chetty, says the program has “the largest effect I’ve ever seen in a social science intervention.”
Though not directed at what are commonly called “homeless RV dwellers,” with some modification the program could become a model for getting those living in derelict RVs (which create a blight on urban streets and in neighborhoods) into more permanent housing along with a helping step up to independence.
Matthews writes, “The way housing assistance normally works in major cities is that housing authorities have limited budgets that they use to distribute money for rent to a subset of needy families. (These are authorized by Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, and known as “Section 8 vouchers.”) The mystery for the researchers was that even after getting a subsidy, many families chose not to move to a better area that offered better opportunity. Why was that? And what could be done about it?”
After a year of utilizing a simple intervention, it looks like it has yielded big results. The experiment found that the additional support raised the share of families moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods from 14 percent to 54 percent. “This is the largest effect I’ve ever seen in a social science intervention,” Chetty said in an email.
The homeless problem will not go away as long as housing costs remain higher in urban areas than is affordable by the poor. A helping hand to get them off the streets and provide a means to a more productive future seems a worthy experiment.
What modifications would make this type of program work for homeless RV dwellers? If you’ve got any ideas, let’s hear them.