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Portland buys homeless a ticket out of town

A homeless camp in Portland (Joshua Rainey Photography /

Portland, a city in the northwest United States, has a homeless problem. Some argue that’s because the city’s social services are too generous, making it a destination for drifters. Others say that’s a myth. Last year, The Oregonian newspaper found evidence to support both theories.

Either way, Portland has come up with a new strategy for the homeless who have come from elsewhere. The city will pay for their bus, train and plane tickets to get back to where they’re from.

Maggie Vespa reports for KGW-TV that the program launched in May covers the cost of one-way travel for destitute residents who line up housing elsewhere. The Oregonian notes here that the initial $30,000 budget for the pilot — variously called “Homeward Bound” and “A Ticket Home” — is part of Mayor Charlie Hale’s broader $2.75 million plan to tackle homelessness.

Portland won’t send anyone out of town until staff with the Transitions Project, a local non-profit, confirm that someone is ready to assist the person upon arrival, KGW-TV says. Three months after participants leave Portland, staffers will follow-up with them to see how they’re adjusting. If they’ve slipped back into homelessness, attempts will be made to connect the individuals with social service agencies in their new hometowns.

Portland Housing Bureau Director Kurt Creager told the Oregonian in March that the goal is to end homelessness — not shift the burden elsewhere.

I learned of the initiative upon encountering a free-spirited backpacker in New York City’s Times Square who said that he took advantage of the funds to travel east by bus to stay with his sister. 


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