News & Politics

More People are Homeless Now Than When Bloomberg Took Office: Report

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What’s a good way to amp up the power of a magazine article that calls “homelessness the single biggest failure of the Bloomberg administration”? Have homeless people read the story aloud.

The above 60-second spot—featuring narration by Alec Baldwin, sounding a lot like guy who does the voice-overs in movie commercials— may be a rhetorical device, but it’s an effective one.

It was released by the Coalition for the Homeless on Tuesday to mark the 4th anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg’s pledge to reduce city homelessness by two thirds. The advocates also released a report “Off Target: A Progress Report On Mayor Bloomberg’s Five-Year Homeless Plan,” criticizing the failure of Bloomberg’s policies despite what may be his best intentions. While the mayor has gotten his fair share of accolades and favorable press for his out-of-the-box thinking on a variety of issues, his homelessness initiatives seem to foundering with just 18 months to go in office.

“What I find most troubling is that despite the Mayor’s promise to end chronic homelessness by next year, New York City’s homeless population has continued to rise dramatically,” said Patrick Markee, Senior Policy Analyst at Coalition for the Homeless. “There are nearly 9,000 homeless families in shelter each night including 14,000 children—that’s double the ‘Year 4’ target of the Mayor’s homeless plan.”

From Off Target: A Progress Report on Mayor Bloomberg’s Five-Year Homeless Plan:

Four years ago, Mayor Bloomberg released “Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter,” his plan to reduce New York City homelessness by two-thirds over five years. While the ambitious goals of the plan were praised by a wide array of advocates, service providers, and community groups, many were concerned that the Mayor and his administration did not commit sufficient housing resources and had failed to craft the right policies needed to achieve the goal.

In recent years, those fears were sadly realized as the Bloomberg administration stumbled through a series of flawed approaches to homelessness – the administration’s decision to cut off homeless New Yorkers Federal housing assistance (beginning in the autumn of 2004), to the disastrous “Housing Stability Plus” program (which was finally abandoned by the City in early 2007), to the City’s ongoing and accelerating use of illegal boarding houses to shelter homeless adults living with mental illness and other disabilities.

Most troubling, New York City’s homeless population has continued to rise dramatically in recent years, beginning with the record-breaking increases that occurred during Mayor Bloomberg’s first term. In 2007, the number of homeless families in municipal shelters reached all-time record levels (more then 9,000 families in shelters each night) while the number of homeless children in shelters also rose (more than 14,000 children each night). All in all, the current decade has proven to be the worst for New York City homelessness since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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