Addressing Homelessness in a Way that Works

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan has a very good profile of George McDonald and the Doe Fund, a New York nonprofit that has proven itself to be particularly effective when it comes to putting an end to homelessness:

Here is what they do: They take in homeless people, referred to them by places like Bellevue Hospital. Many of these people are fresh out of prison, with little safety net. They house them. They ensure they’re sober and make them abide by a schedule. They give them a job for starters—cleaning up trash around the city, for a month. The men in all-blue jumpsuits you see pushing brooms and emptying trash cans throughout New York are Doe Funders.

After that, the fund gives them classes in life skills and specific job training (they can choose between pest control, catering, building maintenance, and other specialties) for the next six months or so. There are mock job interviews, to get the pitch right. Then they send each one out to pound the pavement and find a job. When they find a job, they find them a place to live. By the time a year is up, the Doe Fund has transformed a homeless person into an employed person with a place to live.

George McDonald is currently running for mayor—not because he wants to be mayor but because he wants to make sure that the issues of homelessness in the city will be part of the political dialogue during the race. It’s a very smart way to get people to pay attention.

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