Not Homeless Enough

Image result for greyhound bus atlantaThis week, I am going to be writing at length about social problems in Atlanta. About how homelessness works, about how social services work — or don’t work — to solve problems, and about what you can do to help.

Let’s start with something simple today. A very young couple from Denver found a job on a website I’d never heard of before — snag-a-job — to sell books door to door in Atlanta. Most people would probably blow that off. They were one of the one’s who didn’t. Inexperience claims a victim.

They got on a bus, landed at the Greyhound station downtown expecting to be picked up by their employers, taken to group housing and prepped for the job.

Instead, they found themselves on foot, alone — except for one other guy who immediately started knocking on doors in the neighborhood. Downtown. You can imagine how that went.

They’re scared to death. They slept on the street last night. Because one of them is a young woman, they were followed around at night by the local cretins.

They’re not homeless. But they don’t have the money to get home to Denver. So they’re broke and were asking people at random for money on the street downtown. You can imagine how well that went over as well.

Because they haven’t been homeless for 30 days, the local agencies can only subsidize their bus fare; they can’t buy it outright. “They told us they don’t have anyone to go back to,” a case worker told me. And … that’s true. They’re on their own, just … broke. “If they can show proof that they’ve got a utility bill or a leasing agreement in Denver, that would be different.”

They need $100 each to stop being a social problem here.

Normally, I’m not about putting people on a bus at all. I’m telling this tale to illustrate the specific circumstances under which a bus ticket is necessary, and how meticulous the agencies are about ensuring that they’re not sending someone out of town just to be homeless somewhere else.

The city scarred its soul during the Olympics, putting homeless people on buses to Birmingham to get them off the street. The philosophy here has changed since. This is what it looks like.

A Downtown Ambassador found them and brought them up to see me. I’m twisting arms … but my I-spent-last-week-in-New-Orleans broke self is about to just buy two tickets to Denver.

HOPE Atlanta used to be called Traveler’s Aid. After the Olympics, they began to work much more directly with housing and mental health outreach. But they still do the first job: helping people stuck in one city go back home. They’ve helped here.


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This post illustrates how complex the homelessness issue can be. Not everyone who is homeless is a drunk or a drug addict. Many homeless people are on the financial margins and one unfortunate event pushes them past the limit. I know young man who graduted from college, took a job and got two roomates to get his start in the ATL. One roommate left mid-lease and the other vanished because he couldn’t pay 1/2 the rent. Guess what? After two months he was sleeping in his car at night while working during the day. Housing costs are soaring making it… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Or wages in line with housing.


As someone who deals with charity there is another problem with housing. We quit helping with housing because we would pay the back rent and the owner would still kick them out. We help with utilities but no longer housing. I wonder if other charitable organizations have had the same experience we have had.


This highlights the real issue which is that wages have not kept up with the explosion in capital gains which benefit a few. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were right in one respect, the system is rigged so that the top 10% get 95% of the economic benefits while the bottom 50% struggle on the margins of a booming economy.