New York City is making an attractive offer to its homeless - a one-way ticket out of the city and its expensive shelter system to save a hefty $36,000 a year per family.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the programme Wednesday saying it's a heck of a lot cheaper for city hall to buy a one-way ticket (on average $218) versus providing an apartment that costs $36,000 dollars for a year.
"And given the cost of providing shelter for a family this saves taxpayers of New York an enormous amount of money and, keep in mind, nobody's forcing these people to go. They want to go," he said.
Since 2007, the city has helped 564 families go elsewhere. Most went to Puerto Rico, the Carolinas, but in one case the city spent $6,000 flying one family to Paris.
"It's all part of the same fabric, the same effort to try to shrink, artificially, the population," said Arnold Cohen of the Partnership for the Homeless as quoted by WaBC radio focusing on New York.
Cohen blames politics as motivation for the one-way ticket home programme.
Anything to reduce the near-record number of homeless in New York, he said.
He also questions whether the homeless are really getting help. "All we're really doing is arguably shifting the problem to another municipality," Cohen said.
But city officials said they don't just willy-nilly fly people all over the world. They check up on what's waiting back home.
"We identify outside New York City resources that they have so that they will be going to their own apartment, going to live with a family, or going to a friend. They are going to a home," Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said.
City officials say none of the relocated families have returned to city shelters.