Nearly 90 percent of trips sent homeless people to cities with lower average incomes than where they started.
Nearly 90 percent of trips sent homeless people to cities with lower average incomes than where they started. Milos-Muller/getty

A new report in The Guardian shows that homeless people are indeed being bused into new cities. But most aren't taking the bus to expensive cities like Seattle.

It's not that absolutely no one has come to Seattle from another city. A map in The Guardian's story shows that around 500 people relocated via bus to the Seattle area from other cities since 2011. (No more specific data about Seattle is included.) However, the national trend shows cities like Seattle aren't receiving most people experiencing homelessness.

According to the report, 88 percent of homeless people who received tickets to travel somewhere else traveled to cities with lower incomes than wherever they started. Seattle's median household income is growing faster than any other city.

The Guardian's Outside in America team spent 18 months compiling data about more than 34,000 journeys of homeless people. They looked at information from 16 cities and counties, including Portland, San Francisco, and New York City, that give homeless people free bus tickets to somewhere else. Almost half of the trips began in New York City, which sent people to Puerto Rico and to southern cities like Orlando and Atlanta.

There are various reasons service providers might give people experiencing homelessness bus tickets out of town. For some people experiencing homelessness, it can be a way to reconnect with family or friends who can help them get back on their feet. Some Seattle service providers will help with travel costs for this reason. But some people experiencing homelessness also told The Guardian about struggling to find housing in their new city or about being pressured into taking tickets. The programs can also be a way for cities to reduce their homeless populations.

San Francisco, which like Seattle has seen an increase in its homeless population, has sent about 10,500 people to other cities on buses since 2005. "If these relocation programs did not exist, and the people San Francisco has bussed out of the city had stayed put, there could be as many as 18,000 homeless people currently in the city, more than twice the current population," The Guardian reports.

Learn more and hear from people affected by the busing programs in the story here.