Taxpayer funded “bunks for drunks”?

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. A Seattle area program is using taxpayer dollars to facilitate the continued addiction and self destruction of homeless alcoholics. The NY Times reports:

SEATTLE, June 30 — Rodney Littlebear was a homeless drunk who for 15 years ran up the public tab with trips to jail, homeless shelters and emergency rooms.

He now has a brand-new, government-financed apartment where he can drink as much as he wants. It is part of a first-in-the-nation experiment to ease the torment of drug and alcohol addiction while saving taxpayers’ money.

Last year, King County created a list of 200 “chronic public inebriates” in the Seattle region who had cost the most to round up and care for. Seventy-five were offered permanent homes in a new apartment building known by its address, 1811 Eastlake.

Each had been a street drunk for several years and had failed at least six efforts at sobriety. In a controversial acknowledgment of their addiction, the residents — 70 men and 5 women — can drink in their rooms. They do not have to promise to drink less, attend Alcoholics Anonymous or go to church…

These are the “unsympathetic homeless” who beg, drink, urinate and vomit in public — and they are probably the most difficult to get off the streets, said Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, the nonprofit group that owns 1811 Eastlake.

In 2003, the public spent $50,000, on average, for each of 40 homeless alcoholics found most often at the jail, the sobering center and the public Harborview Medical Center, said Amnon Shoenfeld, director of King County’s division of mental health and chemical abuse.

Mr. Hobson’s group expected the annual cost for each new resident of 1811 Eastlake to be $13,000, or a total of $950,000. It cost $11.2 million to build and is paid for entirely by the City of Seattle and county, state and federal governments.

The actual price tag will probably rise because residents have more serious health problems than expected, said Margaret King, a social worker who manages the building….

The building’s critics are particularly incensed that residents do not have to stay sober. The Seattle Times, in 2004, editorialized that government should insist that the residents quit drinking in order to live there.

“Bunks for drunks — it’s a living monument to failed social policy,” said John Carlson, a conservative radio talk show host here. This approach, he said, is “aiding and abetting someone’s self-destruction.”…

Influential Bush administration officials have come to support this project, including the on-site drinking. John Meyers, director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s regional office here, said he blanched when he learned that his agency had pledged $2 million for it. He now calls 1811 Eastlake “a glorious experiment.”

Wow…unbelievable. Does it offend anyone else that federal tax dollars would help facilitate this behavior? I am all for saving tax dollars, but this approach seems patently absurd. And who knows if it even will save tax dollars in the end.

2 Responses to “Taxpayer funded “bunks for drunks”?”

  1. actus Says:

    “Wow…unbelievable.”

    Not really. The Idea is that a small portion of the homeless are quite chronically so. And housing them in this sort of situation saves money. Morally, Its counterintuitive. But if you look at the ecomonics, it makes sense.

  2. Aaron Says:

    I always find it puzzling that people who stand on moral grounds would prefer that chronic alcoholics and drugs addicts who fail treatment should be denied housing and instead be forced out into the street. Even if one ignores the economic side of it…can a “moral” person really advocate for leaving these vunerable, unwanted people to live and and die in the street?

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