Friday, October 15, 2010

Ann Arbor Finds Out That Subsidizing The Homeless Has Consequences.

The City of Ann Arbor is finding out that when you subsidize certain behavior you (surprise!) get more of it.

The Detroit News: Ann Arbor struggles with homeless influx
City tries to balance services with surge in panhandling, tent camps

Ann Arbor, often know as the Berkley of the Midwest, is having a little problem with a great influx of aggressive homeless panhandlers swamping their social safety net.

Why? Because they subsidize and provide for the homeless for more than any other City and homeless people from as far away as Detroit and beyond are flocking to get some of these services, bringing all sorts of social issues along with them.

Ann Arbor — This progressive city, long known for embracing the poor and destitute, is learning that its support has a price.

For several years, homeless from around the state have descended upon the city because of a largesse that ranges from social services to the generosity of U-M students toward panhandlers, said city police, social service agencies and transients.

The number of homeless in Washtenaw County jumped from 4,212 in 2008 to 4,618 last year, according to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. A quarter of them are from outside the county, said the association.

The influx contributed to a panhandling problem that grew so severe this summer that the police chief labeled it the "No. 1 crime," and the City Council assembled a task force to study it.

"We have people from all over," said Police Chief Barnett Jones. "We're on the cusp of being a victim of our generosity."

And in return for this generosity:
Some of the homeless became emboldened after the city eliminated downtown police patrols for budgetary reasons, area merchants said.

In the spring, the homeless began aggressively asking people for handouts, blocking their path, following them, sometimes grabbing them, the merchants said. They violated a panhandling ordinance by approaching people in outdoor restaurants, movie lines and near ATMs.

Merchants and customers began complaining. Police don't keep track of the number of complaints, but said it was the biggest source of downtown calls they received during the summer.

"It's a pain," said Caroline Peters, 36, a Saline resident who frequently shops in Ann Arbor. "It makes you not want to come here anymore."
Of course, in request to the demand for increased social services brought on by homeless from beyond the City flooding their city and taking uo resources, what did the City do?
Because of the horrid economy that has roiled government budgets across the state, Ann Arbor city staff has recommended for the past three years that the social service money be cut from the city budget.

And for three years the City Council has said no.

Instead, its members have chopped into such things as police and fire services.
Anyone see the connection between the continued increase in social services, reduction in police and concomitant upswing in the panhandling problem?

Apparently not the Ann Arbor City Council:
Councilwoman Sabra Briere said it was important to help the poor now more than ever.

"I would not like to think of us as Mr. Plentiful and Lady Bountiful," she said. "A lot of people here actually care about keeping the ladder down to help people than pulling it up from behind them."
Well, as long as she cares, after all that's the important thing.

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