So asks Tom Hopkins of Vail, CO in this week's New York Times Ethicist column. He wants his charity organization to spend their money on boxes, and he wants to give them to the homeless.
I am a member of a nonprofit benevolent organization. I am considering proposing that we give the homeless cardboard boxes - big enough for a person to sleep in, heavily waxed and hence weatherproof. For the cost of helping 100 people with our traditional programs, we could help 1,000 with these boxes. Is this an ethical project?
So good intentions and whatnot, but perpetuating and endorsing (to use the Ethicist's word) the idea that the homeless should sleep in boxes too. Hopkins' argument is that his 'benevolent organization' can help ten times as many people this way than through their usual, more expensive methods. But giving more people less doesn't quite even out to the same thing as giving fewer people food and, potentially, getting them off the street, does it?
What do you think?