Vice Squad
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Letting Alcoholics Drink in their Subsidized Apartments

A couple years ago Seattle opened an apartment building aimed at the worst chronic homeless alcoholics in town. They were rented a room (for a slice of their disability checks), and allowed to drink all they wanted inside. A nurse and access to other services were on-site, but there was no overt preaching to the residents to give up their drinking habit. There was a great article about the project in the New York Times last year; it mixes well with one of Malcolm Gladwell's articles in The New Yorker, which argues that it might well be cheaper to target the worst cases with extensive services than to pay the continuing emergency room and police bills.

The Times returns to Seattle for an update, and it is quite moving. The article focuses on two old friends, Vietnam veterans and long-time homeless alcoholics. They were both given studio apartments in the building -- and now one has quit drinking.

Thanks to Alcohol and Drugs History Society for the pointer. Back in 2004, Vice Squad mentioned a Toronto shelter that allowed limited drinking.

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