A 21st Century CCC for the able-bodied homeless? YES!


By Max R. Weller

Read about the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps first, then consider how we might adapt this successful model to today’s needs.

Everyone in Boulder, CO is weary of the young and physically fit idlers, who apparently do nothing beyond consuming everything available from social services providers and getting into frequent scrapes with the law. The do-gooders regard this as par for the course, but I call it horse pucky.

How about a nationwide program of compulsory full-time labor on public works projects for any single, able-bodied man or woman who applies for taxpayer-funded benefits? If you don’t want to work, fine; you’ll receive no food stamps, no Colorado AND, no SSI/SSDI disability for vague complaints of mental illness related to substance abuse, no housing voucher, NOTHING except what you can legally scrounge up from private sources. In addition, mandatory GED classes should be required for ALL high school dropouts who apply for government benefits of any kind (and I’d be happy to volunteer as a tutor, something I have certification and experience in from Missouri).

Those who choose a life of crime should also be put to work in some capacity while serving out their sentences in jail or prison, if they are healthy enough for it. The difference is there would be no benefits waiting for them upon release, and they would have to join the law-abiding work program on the outside in order to gain access to food stamps, etc.

Setting up work camps for projects in remote areas would be highly desirable; perhaps the best way to help substance abusers get clean and sober.

Like the original CCC, a small monthly stipend might be provided for workers — so long as at least half of it goes into savings, looking forward to the day when their service ends.

It seems to me that a term of 1 or 2 years of labor would be reasonable, in exchange for opening the door to the tens-of-thousands of dollars in benefits flowing from government at every level.

Am I “a voice crying in the wilderness” without support from others? I’ve often felt like it. My proposal necessitates a sea change in the public attitude . . . Still, think of how this might instill self-respect in the poor and homeless participants (active participants, not passive “clients”), besides the obvious gains for society as a whole.


CCC construction of Clark County State Lake. Clark County, Kansas (Special Collections, Wichita State University)


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