A Salvation Army in North Dakota has seen its donations more than double in the past two years, and it’s using its funds to send homeless people packing.
Jobseekers have been flocking to Williston, N.D., for its alluring less-than-1 percent unemployment rate and high-paying opportunities, CNN Money reports. But as the job market’s been swelling, the housing market’s been shrinking, and the local Salvation Army is trying to solve the problem by paying for homeless people's one-way bus and train tickets and contributing to flight costs.
"Sometimes they're better off going back home," Joshua Stansbury, of the Williston Salvation Army, told the news outlet.
The organization gives up to $80 per person for transportation fees and helped more than 200 people leave last year, according to CNN.
While ushering homeless people out of the city may seem harsh, advocates say they're strapped for alternatives.
When the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People dispensed volunteers one evening in July 2011 to get a “snapshot” of the number of people living on the state’s streets, it found 65 unsheltered people in Williston, according to a report released by the organization. But volunteers said they believe this figure accounted only for 10 percent of the area’s people on the streets. The report also noted that Williston had a zero percent vacancy rate last February for people in need of shelter.
And Williston is just one of a number of metropolises that see paying for transportation as a means to solve the issue.
After placing more than 7,000 people in shelters and housing programs in 2011, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., decided to start paying for bus tickets for people living on the streets, the Palm Beach Post reported last December.
"We're not pushing them out," Mayor Jack Seiler told the paper. “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."
Some advocates argue that such programs aren’t a solution at all and that the transported homeless people simply face the same struggles once they relocate.
"It doesn't solve the problem," G.W. Rolle, a homeless advocate, told the Tampa Bay Times . “It just moves it around."