It has long been the standard practice in medical testing: Give drug treatment to one group while another, the control group, goes without.

Now, New York City is applying the same methodology to assess one of its programs to prevent homelessness. Half of the test subjects — people who are behind on rent and in danger of being evicted — are being denied assistance from the program for two years, with researchers tracking them to see if they end up homeless.

The city’s Department of Homeless Services said the study was necessary to determine whether the $23 million program, called Homebase, helped the people for whom it was intended. Homebase, begun in 2004, offers job training, counseling services and emergency money to help people stay in their homes.

But some public officials and legal aid groups have denounced the study as unethical and cruel, and have called on the city to stop the study and to grant help to all the test subjects who had been denied assistance.

New York Study on Who May End Up Homeless Called Cruel – NYTimes.com
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3 responses

  1. Elizabeth Mitchell says:

    This is absolutely unethical, but not so appalling as I am convinced that many experiments that are conducted without the knowledge or permission of the public (the subjects). There are too many faults within this experiment. The most obvious one, from a sociological standpoint, is that the people being studied and manipulated have no idea that they are part of an experiment. I doubt very much that they will be informed that their hardships of homelessness, for whatever duration of time, was the result of a study; they “subjects” would be infuriated, and rightly so. The next problem with this experiment is that it is unethical, there is no responsibility laid on the shoulders of the experimenters if the subjects are (and they will be) mentally, emotionally or even physically traumatized. Furthermore, by what standards were the “subjects” placed in a control group or an experimented group. The idea that a handful are chosen to be assisted and a handful are chosen to be denied the same assistance, could suggest some possible biases. What roles did race, gender, age and family play in who was a part of the controlled group and who was a part of the manipulated group? basically this is a test that should not have taken place. To figure out people’s need of the Homebase program, they would have conducted given everyone a time limit to remain in the program and then determined how many people would have a stable shelter within that time frame, but those who did not find shelter should still be assisted, (of course they should not be informed that they will receive assistance for as long as it is necessary).

  2. trovanalove says:

    To tell the homeless people that they are apart of a research experiment would be to ruin your project. The full potential of the homeless would never be reached unless they are certain they have to fend for themselves. If they were to know that they have a safety net , the researcher would not acquire the proper material needed in order to make an accurate assesment of the Homebase program.

  3. This is completely unethical. Nothing gives this researchers the right to declare certain people as less than others and to deny them assistance. Who knows whose life will be ruined in this process.