According to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, there’s a reason the less fortunate are staying in homeless shelters 30 percent longer than they have in the past: New York City’s homeless shelters are just too damn nice.
In response to a Wall Street Journal report that found the average length of stay for families with children in city homeless
shelters has shot up by more than 30 percent during the last fiscal year, Hizzoner said the following:
“We have made our shelter system so much better that, unfortunately, when people are in it, or, fortunately, depending on what your objective is, it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
It’s that “pleasurable experience” part that has raised a few eyebrows (read: pissed off just about everyone).
We spoke to a few homeless people on our way into the office this morning, none of whom consider living in a homeless shelter to be a “pleasurable experience.”
“It’s better than being on the street,” Rick, 42, tells the Voice. “But I used to live in an apartment in Brooklyn — had a car. So no — stayin’ at the shelter now is not a more ‘pleasurable experience,’ or whatever he called it, than I’ve had before.”
David Espinoza, 48, also has spent time at a New York City homeless shelter, and echoes Rick’s assessment that, while better than sleeping in a doorway, it’s not necessarily a “pleasurable experience.” He also had some (ahem) kind words for Mr. Bloomberg.
“Don’t that guy have, like, a bazillion dollars and a mansion?” he asks.
After we explained that “a bazillion” isn’t an actual number, but that the mayor owns 11 homes and is worth an estimated $22 billion, Espinoza said “well, fuck that guy!”
People who’ve actually stayed in homeless shelters aside, homeless advocates are outraged that the billionaire mayor of one of the largest cities in the world would make such an insensitive, out of touch comment.
“The Mayor’s assertion that homeless New Yorkers are staying in shelters longer because they are ‘much more pleasurable’ is shocking and offensive,” said Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homelessness, in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal.
“Mayor Bloomberg systematically closed every single path to affordable housing once available to homeless families with vulnerable children,” she said. “His failed policies are the major factor leading to the record shelter population this summer. Blaming homeless families and suggesting they are luxuriating in ‘pleasurable’ accommodations shows just how badly the mayor is out of touch.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 2012