Fort Lauderdale, Fla. passed a new program Tuesday that provides the homeless with one-way bus tickets to any destination, provided they have family there willing to take them in.
The new regulation is called the Homeless Reunification Program, and it is sponsored by the Florida Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is essentially monies authorities have confiscated from criminals. Now, the ill-gotten gains can be used for some good, at least in the eyes of Fort Lauderdale police.
“We’re trying to get people off the streets and get them into a healthy, positive environment,” police spokesman Travis Mandell told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The policy comes in response to the effect the economic downturn has had on low-income families. The police department’s homeless outreach team placed more than 7,000 people in shelters or housing programs in this year alone, with other families still waiting to be placed.
The Homeless Reunification Program could lower that number significantly if it is effective. The program passed in a 4-1 vote as a result.
However, not everyone feels the program will be useful, and worry about its abuse. Vice Mayor Bobby DuBose voted against the program, citing the possibility that it could be used for vacations for the less fortunate.
Authorities specifically addressed that concern, with spokesman Mandell saying, “this is not to be used as a vacation for a homeless person. You can't summer in the Hamptons and winter in Fort Lauderdale."
Other critics allege that Fort Lauderdale is trying to ship their homeless elsewhere in order to improve the quality of life in the city of 165,000.
The mayor of Fort Lauderdale denies the claims, saying, “we’re not pushing (the homeless) out.”
“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,” he added.
Marilyn Munoz of Palm Beach County’s Homeless Coalition expressed similar sentiments about the new regulation, agreeing that the new rule could be a second chance for those down on their luck.
“This is just a way to get people back home,” Munoz told MSNBC.com. “That’s all it is: help. It’s very expensive to purchase a bus ticket.”