Wednesday, July 31, 2013
by Pa Rock
Years ago I was a state child protection worker in the corner county of a state – a county that bordered two other states. When dealing with various aspects of child protection, jurisdictional concerns often came into play. We might encounter a child with serious issues, for example, whom we subsequently found out was a resident of another state. I remember one problematic residence in particular where the front porch was in one state and the remainder of the house was in another.
It was not uncommon for families who encountered difficulties in one state to flee across the border to another. A move of a couple of hundred yards might then involve bureaucracies in two state capitals coordinating with one another – when neither capital was closer than two hundred miles to the actual families involved. Then, if the system worked in a timely manner (which rarely occurred), the problem family could easily slip into the third state.
Of course, the same thing could also work to the state’s advantage. If another state clearly had “ownership” of the family, it was to the local agency’s advantage, from both a time and money perspective, to assist the family in getting back to the state line where that state’s workers would be waiting to welcome them. Or, if a homeless family was discovered living in a local campground and not abusing their children, it was often easier and more economical to assist them in getting to their home of record than it would have been to fund and supervise their social services locally.
That was called “Greyhound Therapy,” and the idea was to move them on down the road. I don’t want that to sound too negative, because during those years I worked with some wonderfully dedicated and caring individuals. Our first and best efforts were always focused on the needs of families and children, regardless of where they called home.
But there are instances when Greyhound Therapy is blatantly used to benefit the government and not the individuals in need.
A friend of mine who used to live in New York City told me that whenever a big convention came to town (such as the Democratic National Conventions of 1976 or 1980), the city would round up all of the homeless individuals and bus them into the suburbs. She said that by the time they drifted back into the city, the convention would be over and the city was back to normal.
Hawaii, which borders no other states, is currently implementing its own form of Greyhound Therapy. Recent news articles have highlighted a program entitled “Return to Home.” Through it the state is paying to fly homeless people back to where they came from – with “one way” tickets. Others may be moved from the islands through passage on cruise ships. The bean counters in Honolulu have come to the conclusion that the price of plane or cruise ticket is cheaper than trying to meet the needs of the homeless. And while many of those “deportees” will eventually return to the sunshine and balmy breezes of Hawaii, the state figures that the money saved on social services during their absence would still exceed the price of removing them from the islands. And, like in New York City, this practice also serves to keep the homeless out of sight and away from the tourists and their money.
As these political entities shuffle their problems from place to place, the big winners would appear to be the airlines, cruise ships – and, of course, Greyhound!