As the never-ending sweat of August settles into New York’s membrane, there are those who are unfortunately not able to sit by an A/C all day and bask in the endless drivel of freon, forced to sleep outside of churches, federal buildings or any other institution that legally cannot kick them out.
Yes, we are talking about New York City’s homeless population. And its ranks are skyrocketing: the homeless population of the Big Apple, in just one year, has risen 18 percent, putting the number somewhere just under 50,000 (it was around 37,000 last year). Also, that’s only the number recorded at the shelters; the actuality could be much more unsettling. Regardless, there are fifty thousand people living on the streets of New York, unable to find food or shelter on their own.
This remarkable figure lies next to the City’s 10% unemployment rate, a sad feat
for New York and an increasingly thin line of hope for job-seekers. However, one must keep in mind that, by law, the City must offer some sort of shelter for the homeless population – the only restriction really comes on the time limits set for their stay. As temperatures dramatically rise, the summer spree for shelter has caused headaches for both the administration and the citizens, simply due to a lack of an answer to one resounding and flawed question of our society:
Where can all these homeless people sleep?
To answer that question, the Department of Housing Services has been rushing around the five boroughs, looking for anything or anywhere to place these struggling residents. Here’s a number to demonstrate the extent of this issue: in the past two months, the New York Times reported
shelters have been opened in the past two months, sometimes giving the nearby neighbors just a few weeks notice; hence the frustration on both sides.
Of the nine shelters, two are Uptown, five are in the Bronx and another five reside in Brooklyn. In some cases, the City has used its emergency authority of eminent domain to take over dilapidated buildings and flip them for the homeless in days time. For example, in the Bronx, the City told the citizens that a 50-unit shelter would open in a week or so; thus leading to the usual dose of “Not in my backyard!” arguments.
The Bloomberg administration is now publicly stating that they understand the spike in the homeless population comes off the heels of the Advantage program’s end. The system placed those willing to work at least 20 hours a week out of the shelters and into low-income housing while the government paid about $1,100 a month towards rent for two years. Until 2011, when the Bloomberg administration pulled its cash flow share out of the program. To use logical thinking, guess where all those people went back to? Now, that fifty thousand benchmark doesn’t seem so surprising.
Regardless, as of now, this quick increase in shelter housing is a temporary fix for a long-term problem. Unfortunately, with Bloomberg out in a year or so, ‘temporary’ will remain the standard, a prisoner of electoral politics. Let’s hope our homeless population can wait that long.