Looking for government savings from the homeless and carless

On Friday the Boston Herald reported on "an expanding state program handing out donated cars to welfare recipients with state-funded insurance and AAA memberships" — and on efforts by Republican Sen. Scott Brown to scrap the program. ("We’re paying for Triple A? You’ve got to be kidding me.")

Red Mass Group's South Shore Republican is outraged by the program:

I can't help but read this as a big F-YOU from our state government to all the Bay Staters who work hard so they can stay off welfare, and maintain their cars well so they don't have to pay for new ones.

Meanwhile, Blue Mass Group's David sees the program as a success story and is amazed that Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo seems open to pulling the plug:

…from all reliable accounts, this is a program that saves the state money. If these families didn't have cars, they'd still be on welfare. Public transportation sucks or is nonexistent in much of the state, and remember, the recipients have to prove they need the car for a job.

But programs that save the government money in the long run aren't as popular at a time when state governments need cash now. So it's not surprising that New York City is putting the touch on people in homeless shelters. The New York Times reported on Saturday that homeless shelter residents who have jobs will be charged rent. Makes sense from a fiscal standpoint, but it also seems to make it much more difficult for shelter residents to save enough money for the first month and security deposit on an apartment:

Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

“It’s not right,” said Ms. Dacosta, a single mother of a 2-year-old who said she spends nearly $100 a week on child care. “I pay my baby sitter, I buy diapers, and I’m trying to save money so I can get out of here. I don’t want to be in the shelter forever.”

Unfortunately for Dacosta, economic mobility doesn't seem to be high on the list of public policy objectives right now.