Thursday, February 19, 2009

Offically: Not so good Neighbors

How do us New Yorkers think and act towards our neighbors without homes?

Officially we're not looking like good Neighbors.

Our City
Homelessness is treated by the Bloomberg administration, much like every other major American executive branch, as both a legit social ill and a detriment to the quality of life in the city. In 2004 Mayor Bloomberg made a bold pledge to "eliminate chronic homelessness and cut temporary homelessness by two-thirds." Advocates were excited about the plan, which seemed to be a genuinely progressive step in the right direction.

By end of 2008, the city had seen record numbers of homeless families and street homelessness back on the rise.

More distressingly, the administration, spearheaded by DHS Commissioner Hess, has reversed course on the 2004 plan, instead enacting policy that makes it harder for street homeless people to enter system. The implication here is that the City thinks "some of these people aren't really homeless and without shelter, they'll find a place to go." The changes slated to be made in 2009 have disastrous implications on the most vulnerable of our homeless neighbors. We will surely see more of them sleeping on the street.

This attitude, of treating homelessness as a "choice" goes deeper. According to this NY Daily News Article "the NYPD summoned a dozen precinct commanders to Headquarters Friday to help focus efforts against aggressive beggars, squeegee men, hookers and illegal peddlers." This aggressive criminalization of homelessness reminds us of the dark days of Giuliani. Apparently it remains the official policy today.

What strikes me the most is that we have a government that acknowledges the virtues of finding homes of everyone, but then turns around and implies that some homeless people don't deserve shelter or even spots to panhandle and sleep (aka survive). The effect I've seen in most reporting is that the public is lead to believe there is a real commitment to change, while public policy grantees things will get worse.

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