But others said they were grateful for the ability to threaten the most difficult families with ejection.
"If you need a big stick now and then, for certain families, so be it," said Richard Motta, the president and chief executive of Volunteers of America of Greater New York, which runs three family shelters.
The lack of such a threat was a problem, Mr. Motta said.
"There's not a caseworker alive that wants to realize that threat, and as an agency, we don't want to move people to the streets," he said. "That's not what we're in business to do. But if you enter the shelter, if you know there's a threat of being put out of the shelter, you'll be more likely to follow the rules."
She then observes:
[W]hy does [Motta] want to kick them out of the shelter? Because families in crisis are sometimes in crisis because the head of household, or an older child, has a severe behavior problem. That minority can make life unbearable for the majority. They can also make life miserable for themselves, and facility managers would like to be able to open slots for new intakes by forcing refractory long term residents to, say, apply for jobs, or move into subsidized housing.
If you had asked me, I would have said that of course a homeless shelter intended for families could expel troublemakers. I'm gratified that policy is catching up to common sense.
But that still leave another venue where common sense has yet to reach: public schools. I assume without knowing that a process still exists for expelling students who cross some threshold of criminality. But it's also abundantly clear that that threshold is far too high. Think about it: in what other public place is verbal and physical assault considered one of the routine hazards? A man on a public street, a store, or a workplace is not expected to figure out how to "resolve interpersonal conflicts" with someone hurling abuse at him. If I am in, say, Wal-Mart, and another customer starts insulting me, I can pretty much count on Wal-Mart asking the person to leave the store. And if that person struck me, he would be criminally and civilly liable. Yet public schools and their students are forced to grapple with behavior that would never be tolerated anywhere else. But more importantly, the troublemakers know this. And the knowledge that antisocial behavior has real consequences in the real world is sufficient to curb most of it. Very few (I suspect) erstwhile school bullies try this kind of thing outside of lawless gang areas of inner cities. (Which is not to say they don't aggravate neighbors and coworkers in other ways.) But in public schools, the students have, not only a presumptive right to attend, but the legal obligation to do so. And this makes life difficult for those students there simply to learn.