Daniel Denvir’s City Paper article “Living on the Edge” navigates complex social issues to deliver a convincing verdict on a shortsighted policy decision. Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year would eliminate General Assistance (GA) payments. These nine-month, one-time welfare payments help to maintain Philadelphia’s system of recovery houses.
These establishments offer low-rent housing and medical assistance to recovering addicts, a significant number of whom rely on their GA payments to afford these services. There are a host of problems with many of the recovery houses, including exploitation of the recovering addicts for cheap labor, but as a whole they provide a valuable service in keeping addicts off the street and on the path to recovery.
The article argues that if GA was ended, Philadelphia would see an increase in crime.
Denvir has a difficult task ahead of him with this argument due to the complexities surrounding both drug use and welfare. The failure of many of the recovery houses to meet basic standards of accountability and effectiveness also complicates the argument. The article quotes activist organizations, government bureaucrats, recovery house owners and addicts themselves in order to paint a picture of an imperfect but necessary system.
Denvir’s most compelling argument from an economic perspective is that many of these GA recipients will wind up in jail if they can no longer pay the costs of recovery houses. And that will ultimately cost the state more than the GA program would.
– Text by Brendan Clay. Image via City Paper.