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Abstract

Homelessness is a national crisis. State and local governments have responded in various ways to the problem, but the ad hoc development of local responses is an insufficient solution in the absence of any overarching federal program. Reliance upon local solutions promotes a "race to the bottom" whereby each locale reduces its program of shelter for the homeless to the minimum required by law in order to avoid attracting homeless people from neighboring areas. Communities attempt to solve their problems of homelessness by creating strong incentives for homeless people to move to localities with more comprehensive programs. Consequently, a systemwide bias against comprehensive programs at the local level results from the dynamic of the race to the bottom. In addition, local programs fail to address the deeper and more complex problem of integrating homeless people into the American economy, polity, and society. This Comment advocates federal action to end the race to the bottom and attempts to focus the debate about the content of future federal legislation to aid the homeless.

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