Atlantic City tourism and social-service officials may finally be developing a workable way to better manage the resort's homeless population.
The problem, of course, is that phrase - "the resort's homeless population."
Resorts and the homeless don't go well together. Tourists are not drawn to places where they are reminded of the world's social ills. And Atlantic City, quite literally, has more than its share of homeless - other towns in New Jersey send their homeless here, in part because of the excellent and admirable services provided by the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Sister Jean's Kitchen.
But now the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is considering funding a plan developed by Atlantic County to create a "single point of entry" system for the homeless.
Under the plan, which is subject to approval by the CRDA board in July, the county would supply space at no charge in the Atlantic County Office Building on Atlantic Avenue, and the CRDA would, at least initially, pay a third party to operate the intake center.
Homeless people seeking services from the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, the county welfare office - and, we hope, Sister Jean's Kitchen - would first be screened and registered at the intake center.
They would be assigned a case manager and given health evaluations - and they will be asked about their last places of residence and the locations of family and friends. No doubt in some cases, a simple phone call to the right relative or friend could result in a change of fortune for a homeless person.
Not that we have any illusions about this homeless triage idea. The point is to reduce the number of homeless people in Atlantic City, particularly in the Tourism District.
That may sound cold. But the fact is, if you were designing a program with the sole goal of providing better services for the homeless, you would start with this kind of intake center. The goal is to provide each person with a comprehensive plan for services and to register each person in a system that will track what services are needed and utilized.
The program will only work, however, if the Rescue Mission and Sister Jean's Kitchen agree to turn away people who have not yet registered at the intake office. That may be a hard sell for the mission and the soup kitchen - to their eternal credit, they are there to help, not turn people away. Certainly, offering some type of transportation to and from the intake office is critical - and a such a system is currently under discussion.
The CRDA, the county and all the other agencies involved deserve praise for developing a plan that should serve the needs of the homeless - and the needs of the city's tourism economy.