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Just because you don’t have a home doesn’t mean you can’t pay rent.

New York City officials are planning to force many homeless people who live in shelters to start paying rent if they are also employed. The New York Times reports that the city will require most homeless families with an employed member to apply for a special rent subsidy.

According to the Times, participants “would be required to pay 30 percent of their income during the first year of the subsidy. During the second year, they would pay 50 percent of the total rent.” According to the city’s deputy mayor, it works on a sliding scale, which means a family of three making $10,000 a year would only pay $36 a month, but if that family made $25,000, they would pay nearly $1,000 a month.

The plan still has to be approved by the state government, but there are already some doubts. New York City experimented with a similar plan last year but canceled it after they were sued by the Legal Aid Society, an advocate group that is considering suing again to halt this plan. "It makes far more sense to allow those families to save their meager funds in order to be able to get out of the shelter system sooner," said Steven Banks, the chief attorney of the Legal Aid Society, according to the New York Daily News.

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New York City is not the only place to have experimented with this model. Back in 2008, several homeless shelters in Hawaii started to charge monthly rents ranging from $60 to $180. But whether or not you think homeless people deserve a free ride, it is worth considering the timing of this plan. New York officials claim they are not doing this to raise money but rather as a matter of “principle.” Shouldn’t cities show more generosity to the homeless during a bad economy rather than less?

Consider the model that Detroit has pioneered. No city has been more devastated by the recession than Detroit, and yet there is now a high-tech gym in the city that homeless people can access for free. Not only do they get a chance to do some valuable self-improvement, but some of the gym equipment actually generates energy so that the homeless people can help power the city. Perhaps more cities should be looking for ways that the homeless can give back instead of just taking their money.

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