12/09/2010 09:56 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New York Department Of Homeless Denying Homeless Aid For Study

In order to gauge how successful the homeless assistance program, Homebase, is, The Department of Homeless in New York is denying aid to half its participants to see whether or not they will become homeless within the year.

The program is designed specifically to prevent homelessness through job training, counseling, and providing emergency funds to help people stay sheltered. The Department is only one of many such national organizations who conduct so-called randomized trial testing, much like pharmaceutical companies test drugs against placebos. Half of those in the study will receive aid, and the other half who won't will be tracked and monitored.

"It's a very effective way to find out what works and what doesn't," MIT economist Esther Duflo told the New York Times. "Everybody, every country, has a limited budget and wants to find out what programs are effective."

Local politicians are calling for an end to the study, which they call cruel and unjustified. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said, "the city shouldn't be making guinea pigs out of its most vulnerable."

But Seth Diamond, the commissioner of the Homeless Services Department, insists the project, which had to reduce its budget by $20 million in November, is for the greater good.

"This is about putting emotions aside," he said. "When you're making decisions about millions of dollars and thousands of people's lives, you have to do this on data, and that is what this is about."