Friday, April 28, 2006
A controversy is fuming in Seattle over the future of a homeless advocacy group, SHARE, that takes federal and city money but is criticized for not spending much of it on direct assistance to homeless people. Raising social consciousness is the chief aim of SHARE, which has risked losing government funds by its refusal to comply with a information-monitoring requirement for city-funded programs.
The debate over the Seattle program and others like it challenges some shibboleths of both left and right over social policies to help the poor and the homeless. Leftist theories, informed by Marxism, holds that politicization should be a primary aim. On the right, free-marketers maintain that getting government out the way, and giving people personal responsibility for their progress, is the path to success. A more sober truth, however, may be that many homeless people are best helped by getting direct and firm guidance in finding a permanent indoor bed and taking care of their health, rather than in indirectly "empowering" them.