Abel on Budget Cuts to Homeless Shelters

November 8, 2009

By Rebecca Ballard

Abel’s recent article, Budget trims lead to homeless shelters across Mass. to cut services and beds,” covers the anticipated effects of the budget cuts on homeless programs across the state.

While the article is brief relative to the subject matter, Abel manages to present and explain the story from several angles; Massachusetts state housing officials, city officials, and advocates for the homeless. It is easy for the reader’s sympathy to instantly lie with those who will be directly and negatively affected by the budget cuts (advocates for the homeless and the homeless themselves).

However, by quoting the associate director of the division of housing stabilization at the State Department of Housing and Community Development, Bob Pulster, the reader is shown that the homeless programs have been spared before (although it is worth questioning what exactly Pulster means by “held harmless”). They are also reminded that there are cuts being made everywhere due to the economy.

By also using a quote from the St. Francis house executive director Karen LaFrazia in which she said, “I don’t know what the governor is supposed to do with a $600 million budget shortfall,” the reader is again reminded later in the article that the cuts are being done for a reason (whether or not they agree with it is a different matter). This quote was a good choice for the article as she continues on to say, “but I know what he shouldn’t do,” which then reinforces the counter-argument.

Abel’s use of figures and percentages also worked well in the article–sometimes using statistics can just come out like empty numbers on a page, but because of how they are tied into the article, the reader can understand they represent real people. When he writes about the amount of money being cut from programs he then follows with an explanation of what that means in hard facts for the shelter (such as a loss of meals, loss of a day program, loss of security, loss of beds, etc).

I also thought it was appropriate that at the end of the article, Abel covers the progress that has been made reducing homelessness in Boston (“the city has reduced the number of single homeless adults by 500 people, or nearly 30 percent, over the past five years”) but juxtaposes this with reminders from homeless advocates that the budget cuts will potentially reduce their ability to be as effective.

In a time in which much of what we hear about the economy is focused on other areas, it’s important that the homeless are not forgotten–through budget cuts or in the media. Abel’s article does a good job to raise awareness about the issue of what happens to “people who have nothing” in a time when everyone is struggling.

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