Midnight Mission Madness


Via the excellent Sploid comes this Christian Science Monitor tale of homelessness, L.A.-style:

Opening Monday and trumpeted proudly by city officials is the Midnight Mission–and one of the nation's plushest homeless shelters. The $17 million state-of-the-art facility boasts a full-sized gymnasium, library, playroom, hair salon, education center, and professional kitchen. The shelter is the city's latest effort to address one of its most visible and resistant social problems: the more than 6,000 people who live on the streets….

"That same $17 million could have gone a long way toward creating homes and jobs," says Bob Erlenbusch, vice president of the board for the National Coalition for the Homeless. "Affordable housing is what these people need, not a way to institutionalize their temporary status."

The new shelter boasts 500 beds. Whole thing here.

Reason's Mike Lynch toured L.A. mean streets during the 2000 Democratic National Convention here.

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  1. I see they’re still paving that road to hell…

  2. Why do I pay my rent again?

  3. You know you’ve crossed a line when the Coalition for the Homeless trashes your homeless shelter.

  4. “Since the late 1980s, America has built a mammoth infrastructure of shelters and the number of homeless has gone up, not down. It’s a bit of the if-you-build-it-they-will-come phenomenon at work,” says Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. As Ms. Roman and other national officials see it, the lack of affordable housing is what needs to be addressed.

    “That same $17 million could have gone a long way toward creating homes and jobs,” says Bob Erlenbusch, vice president of the board for the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Affordable housing is what these people need, not a way to institutionalize their temporary status.”

    Yes, that is exactly what they need. “Affordable” housing at the expense of the rest of society. And the people teetering on the edge of homelessness, what about them? Ah, yes, another incentive to be homeless: affordable housing handouts!! Just like welfare has obliterated poverty. Mmm hmm.

    How about abolishing the minimum wage laws? All they do is discriminate against folks whose labor skills are worth less than $5.15/hr. Maybe one reason alot of these guys can’t find work is that minimum wage laws have forcibly priced the jobs out of their range. Add in the fact that government regulation and taxation on property makes “affordable” housing impossible, and you have a simple solution: scale back the guvmint.

    Or you could just build the Ritz-Carlton Homeless Shelter/Weekend Spa & Retreat.

  5. They should’ve hired homeless to build it.

  6. …cuz everybody knows that incentivizing something is the best way to eradicate it…

  7. Ironchef:

    That’d be a good idea, except their lack of labor skills would probably make their value less than $5.15/hr, meaning that the government has effectively stolen their job at the expense of a slightly higher-skilled worker.

    And good luck getting a general contractor to hire someone for $5.15/hr when their skill level is worth $2.75/hr.

  8. “…at the expense of a slightly higher-skilled worker.”

    should be

    “…at the benefit of a slightly higher-skilled worker.”

  9. The problem they’re trying to eradicate is not homelessness. What they’re trying to eradicate is having to actually SEE homeless people.

  10. $34,000 a bed? I know it’s LA, but still.

  11. Hope they aren’t booked up this summer that place sounds way nicer than some hotels I have to PAY to stay at. I might get a few pickup games of B-Ball in too homeless people aren’t very good so maybe I can con them out of their money.

    Affordable housing, maybe if California didn’t have such crazy zoning and open space laws (which I will wager sure the woman quoted is in favor of) you could get more housing built.

  12. I volunteer at a homeless shelter. I have nothing against providing excellent facilities. In fact, I think that in a good program, good facilities can make a positive difference. That hair salon can make people presentable for job interviews, and that gym can improve people’s health and help them work off steam (a homeless shelter can be a cauldron of tension, with people barely avoiding violence).

    But such plush facilities only work if coupled with high expectations. We insist that clients do chores and watch their kids and adhere to curfews and spend their days looking for work and all sorts of other requirements. It’s a tough program, and some people quit because they find our standards too difficult.

    I am skeptical that this fancy facility will do much to help people become self-sufficient unless it’s coupled with a rigorous program of career development and discipline. But it will keep homeless people out of the financial district.

    The article was vague on where the funds came from. It said that city officials were at the opening, but it didn’t explicitly state that it was city-funded. And it has the word “Mission” in its name. Maybe it’s a public-private partnership or something. Some shelters have that sort of hybrid funding arrangement.

    In any case, I’m sure the downtown business owners will be happy if it reduces the number of homeless people on the streets. That’s the way things frequently work, regardless of whether it’s officially a public project or officially a private project.

  13. There are those who suffer homelessness, whose choices include no ‘home’ option. Then there are those who choose to be homeless as opposed to housed at one level or another.

    As an individual I’d want to do my small thing to mitigate against the suffering of those who truly suffer homelessness. If the astounding facility mentioned actually helps these people, great. That remains to be seen, but now that it’s built, ok.

    As for those who choose to be homeless and then milk any given institution/system/facility, that’s a problem I don’t know how to address except perhaps by a rigorous system like thoreau mentions.

  14. Go ahead and knock large “supershelters” for the way they segregate the homeless and concentrate almost as many problems as they do services in one place, but whatever its faults and excesses, this one is privately run and privately funded.

    And anyway, all inner-city YMCAs were new once, too. They have gyms. To this day many of them still offer the services of a flophouse and a counseling center. How is this different?

    I’d like to give a shout-out to the commenters before me who remind me that for all the theory and philosophy bandied about as libertarianism, the real-world version still often boils down to expressing contempt for anyone less fortunate than oneself and anyone who tries to help same.


    Sploid is excellent? It’s just links to news stories collected from around the web, like a prettier version of Fark but without the comments or stickiness. I’m sure that endorsement is in no way related to ties between Ken Layne and the LA faction at Reason.

    I guess it’s a sign of some kind of new editorial restraint that Mr. Gillespie posted this plug rather than Layne’s chum/collaborator/bandmate Mr. Welch.

  15. “I’d like to give a shout-out to the commenters before me who remind me that for all the theory and philosophy bandied about as libertarianism, the real-world version still often boils down to expressing contempt for anyone less fortunate than oneself and anyone who tries to help same.”

    I, for one, do not fall into that category. I’m not sure what “libertarians” you’ve met, but they aren’t the kind that I know.

    privately funded Homeless shelters=good idea
    taxpayer-funded homeless shelters=not such a good idea, as such projects are usually lining some bureacrats pocket…

    Out here.

  16. “I’d like to give a shout-out to the commenters before me who remind me that for all the theory and philosophy bandied about as libertarianism, the real-world version still often boils down to expressing contempt for anyone less fortunate than oneself and anyone who tries to help same.”

    Unless you somehow cross posted you are foolishly inaccurate considering my post directly before you.

  17. I was a homeless women standing on 4th street waiting to get some free clothes from the Mission. A flyer issued at Martin Luther King referred me the Midnight Mission Services. During my 2 week stay at the Union Rescue I was referred to the Midnight Mission again. The only thing I own were the clothes on my back. I was scared and desperate victim of domestic violence hiding among the homeless population so that my abuser would never find me again. I fled leaving my apartment in Laguna Hills and my job as recruiter with nothing. As I was explaining to The Midnight Mission clothing room manager why I needed clothes he asked me if I would like to volunteer so that I could get free clothes. I immediately agreed knowing that I could increase my wardrobe by coming back the next day and everyday since then. While volunteering in the clothing department, they asked if I had any computer skills. I informed them that before coming to the mission I was like most technical recruiters attending career fairs, on client visits, or coordinating in-house interview sessions. The income and financial incentives kept me in the profession for twelve years. I was employed with companies such as Volt, Addecco and Comforce. I enjoyed the thrill of the perfect match between client and applicant. I loved the long hours and weekend work. Though at times it may have seen overwhelming life was never boring. I enjoyed the hard work of establishing my network of candidates and clients. My high energy and drive made me successful. Once they heard my story I started volunteering at the Midnight Mission working as a Volunteer in the development department. After working 3 weeks of volunteering I was hired on a part-time basis. And now thanks to God and thanks to the Mission I have overcome the obstacles that brought the victim of domestic violence to the clothing line. I am a grateful that the Midnight Mission was there to help me. And today I am no longer a victim of domestic violence but a strong woman attending college and living in my own apartment. Today, I have stopped crying and the pain is gone

  18. The problem with the article in question is that it is portraying The Midnight Mission as a homeless “Shelter”. The Midnight Mission is NOT, I repeat, NOT a homeless “Shelter”.

    The word SHELTER eludes to the principal that the facility does nothing more than offer a bed, and some services. In actuality, The Midnight Mission has a very comprehensive drug and alcohol recovery program that, when coupled with it’s job therapy, counseling, education, and job placement programs, takes the individuals who live on the street and have decided it’s time to change their lives, and builds a bridge back to self sufficiency.

    The “Hair Salon” is nothing more than a small three chair barber shop that is run by, believe it or not, a program resident who lives at the Mission, works in cutting the hair of the homeless.

    The Movies are shown in a large communal day room where individuals are given an opportunity to get off the streets, and out of the dog eat dog environment that exists there, and just recieve a brief moment of respite from an otherwise difficult life.

    The Gymnasium is actually used to assist the individuals who are in our program to rebuild a sense of physical health that is often in a detrimental state from living on the streets and using drugs for an extended period of time. Also, endorphins can be a great release for an individual and assist in the recovery process when attempting to stay off of drugs.

    Everyone who stays at The Midnight Mission, also works at the Mission. No one gets a free ticket. The Mission also assists individuals with various life issues such as legal problems, back owed taxes and outstanding debts, etc. These are all issues that are faced by individuals living on the streets, yet The Midnight Mission chooses to assist and help a person with. When a person finally leaves the doors of The Midnight Mission, they truthfully get a fresh start, and a new handle on life.

    All of this is not to say that The Midnight Mission doesn’t offer basic subsistance services to individuals. To the contrary, many emergency services such as food, clothing, and emergency shelter are available for any individual who walks through the door, and in my opinion, those basic needs are something that should always be addressed.

    Before making a judgement call about what the facility offers the homeless of the streets, I suggest you, as individuals educate yourselves. Come down to The Midnight Mission, read up about it, and truthfully find out what it means to be homeless. Once you see the faces of those who are being served, I gaurantee your minds will be changed.

    Every year, hundreds of individuals walk in their doors and off the streets for the last time. If a one time cost of $17 Million will help to alleviate more of the pain and humiliation that individuals go through, and assist those who are suffering to find a better way, I think the cost is well worth it.

  19. Also, The Midnight Mission is a PRIVATELY FUNDED organization that does not accept funds from the government for it’s opperating budget.

  20. If I ever found myself on the street and broke in my town, without friends or family to help me get on my feet, a place like the MM would be very welcome. I believe I would only have a choice between begging the government for general assistance welfare, or going hat in hand to a Rescue Mission run by a conservative church. Now, that last might be a wonderful thing in the eyes of believers, but I’m not crazy about faking an interest in the Jesus-myth in order to avoid sleeping under bridges. The local Xtian mission has strict rules, too. I doubt one could run a successful program that was anything other than a flop without them.

    If my city had a Midnight Mission-style operation, I’d be much more likelier to put them on my charity list than the Sally Army or Catholic Charities. No offense to folks like thoreau who like to work through their church, but I’m not a believer, and prefer dealing with secular, private organizations.


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