A Private Charity Success Story

August 25, 2014

Every day, private charities are proving that they can help the poor get back on their feet, without the help of government, writes Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Tanner points to the Doe Fund as an example. In 1985, businessman George McDonald began providing New York City's homeless with free meals, yet he became dismayed when the same recipients continued to appear, week after week. As Tanner says, McDonald was solving hunger, but he was not bringing people out of poverty. Undeterred, McDonald created the "Ready, Willing, and Able" program (also known as the Doe Fund):

  • Still operating today, the fund has four centers in New York City and one in Philadelphia. At any one time, the Doe Fund is helping 700 people.
  • Participation in the program requires a minimum of 30 hours of work each week in one of the Doe Fund's businesses. (The Fund has businesses that clean the streets, provide pest control services and cook.)
  • With work, a participant receives pay above the minimum wage, and he is eligible for a raise. If a participant owes child support, the program requires him to pay it.

The program aims to transition participants into the workforce, and it has been successful. Additionally, a study by Harvard University concluded that the ex-convicts in the Doe Fund program had a recidivism rate that was 60 percent lower than similarly situated individuals.

Americans, writes Tanner, are more than willing to help their fellow man in need. Private charity is more effective than government charity because it gives recipients tools to move up and out of poverty. The United States has continued to pour more and more funds into welfare programs, with little to show for it, explains Tanner, because the welfare state lacks the right incentives to push people to become self-reliant.

Source: Michael D. Tanner, "Less Welfare, More Charity," Cato Institute, August 20, 2014.

 

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