A case of "my house, my rules":
BLOOMINGTON, IND.(AP) - A Bloomington shelter for the homeless is implementing a new code of conduct for residents that bars them from asking strangers for money.
Members of the board of directors for Martha's House say the new policy is designed to help the homeless become self-sufficient. Another policy barring residents from drinking alcohol or using unprescribed drugs while staying at the shelter has a similar goal.
Board member Darryl Neher said the panhandling prohibition is not designed to be punitive, but to create a supportive atmosphere for individuals who are struggling to stay clean and sober
"Those seeking services at Martha's House want help finding a way out of their situation," Neher told The Herald-Times . "This new code of conduct should not be viewed as a barrier, but as something that will help facilitate that process."
Bob Miller, president of the shelter's board of directors, said he believes that most of the people who panhandle in Bloomington use the money to buy alcohol or illegal drugs.
I know a lot of people will see the rules as punitive, or at least as smug moral preening or some such. But it depends of the ultimate goal of the shelter, doesn't it? If the point is merely to provide a place for the homeless to get out of the weather for a night or two, then the rules probably are superfluous and unnecessarily intrusive. But if the aim is to actually improve the lives of these people, then setting rules aimed at reducing self-destructive behavior as a condition of getting help is perfectly rational. Refraining from panhandling for a few days to receive accomodations isn't going to magically change anybody's character. But making a conscious choice to trade a perceived wrong fora promised benefit involves the kind of cost-and-benefit analysis the shelter's customers aren't used to making.
And isn't it nice to see strings attached to the money? The usual government approach, by way of contrast, is, "Ooh, I see a problem, so here's some money." Then there is great consternation that the problem hasn't been solved by the money! Again.