Jewish World Review May 2, 2005 / 23 Nissan, 5765
Urban problems demand good results, not just good intentions
In Los Angeles, city officials proudly opened a plush new homeless
shelter that cost $17 million and featured state-of- the-art gym,
library, hair salon, movie theatre, and professional kitchen.
Even homeless activists acknowledged that despite its good intentions,
the project would only perpetuate the cycle of life on the streets, by
providing rewards and comfort for self-destructive behaviors.
Meanwhile, national studies at Duke and Columbia Universities showed
that one of the best ways to improve urban neighborhoods and to reduce
the homeless presence is gentrification.
As Professor Lance Freeman emphasized, when middle class families move
into distressed districts, they don't generally displace the long-time
residents, but actually improve their quality of life, giving new
reasons to stay.
When successful families flock to a down-and-out neighborhood they may
be selfishly motivated, and when activists build lavish homeless
facilities, they may feel unselfish.
But when dealing with nagging urban problems, we should judge results,
rather than intentions.
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