We keep hearing, with little concrete evidence, that rents are going down in New York. But for one class of citizen, housing costs are undeniably going up: the city is starting to charge the working homeless rent to stay in the shelters. Now, if you’re on the bum but trying to save up a little something to better your life, you can forget about it — you will be told, as one shelter resident who somehow found work as a cashier was told, to fork over $336 of the $800 a month you make to the authorities.
Mayor Bloomberg claims a 1997 state law requires the charges but no one seems to know why he started enforcing this law all of a sudden — and, typically, the Mayor does not show any interest in getting it changed to give homeless people some relief. His commissioner of homeless services thinks charging rent is a swell idea. “I don’t see this playing out in an adverse way,” insists Robert V. Hess. “Our objective is not for families to remain in shelter.” Yeah, and taking what little money and incentive for working they have is really going to help.
As expected, homeless advocates are against the plan, and redneck peckerwoods are in favor. The chances of getting the circus in Albany stopped long enough to reconsider the law are very slim, since the homeless have very little money to contribute to political campaigns.