How do us New Yorkers think and act towards our neighbors without homes?
Officially we're not looking like good Neighbors.
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.