Help the Homeless: Buy Them Booze
A study published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that giving homeless adults plenty of booze to drink improved their behavior…
Seventeen homeless adults, all with long and chronic histories of alcohol abuse, were allowed up to 15 glasses of wine or sherry a day — a glass an hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. — in the Ottawa-based program, which started in 2002 and is continuing.
After an average of 16 months, the number of times participants got in trouble with the law had fallen 51 percent from the three years before they joined the program, and hospital emergency room visits were down 36 percent.
The Stranger was, as we sometimes are, ahead of the curve on this one. In 2002 Charles Mudede made this modest proposal:
Most of the problems associated with pubic intoxication (public vomiting, urination, and other disturbances) are caused by off-premises consumption, or public drinking. If there were more opportunities for homeless people to drink in private, most of these unpleasant activities would be significantly reduced. The solution? Open bars in the homeless shelters—preferably in the basements of these shelters—which would keep drinkers, and the effects of their drinking, out of public sight. True, there would still be people begging, but the deleterious effects of drinking would be moved indoors. The shelter bar would sell cheap but potent forms of alcohol, and not in mugs or cups or cans, but in big plastic buckets that require considerable effort to carry from the bar to the table. (The tables should be made of thick wood like the tables in the Comet Tavern.) The reason for buckets is they would foster communal drinking and communal bonds.
The only thing Charles got wrong was not proposing that the booze be given away for free, as was the case in Ottawa. We shouldn’t just open bars in homeless shelters, but open open bars.