homelessness

WHEN the workers in the City of London head home each evening, a hidden legion of homeless people shuffles out of the shadows to reclaim their territory. The Square Mile has more rough sleepers than any other London borough except Westminster: 338 were identified by Broadway, a charity, over the past year, most of whom had spent more than a year on the streets. Policymakers have long struggled to find ways to shift such people, some of whom take deluded pride in their chaotic circumstances, resist offers to come in from the cold and suffer from severe drug, drink or mental-health problems (sometimes all three).

Broadway tried a brave and novel approach: giving each homeless person hundreds of pounds to be spent as they wished. According to a new report on the project by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a think-tank, it worked—a success that might offer broader lessons for public-service reform and efficiency.

The charity targeted the longest-term rough sleepers in the City, who had been on the streets for between four and 45 years (no mean achievement when average life expectancy for the long-term homeless is 42). Instead of the usual offers of hostel places, they were simply asked what they needed to change their lives.

via The Economist.