Remember when Mayor Bloomberg said a few weeks ago, “Nobody’s sleeping on the streets“? Well…
At that time, the Coalition of the Homeless furiously responded by telling reporters that there was “no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent city surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.” So, almost immediately, City Hall released a quick statement, arguing that its main vocalist had misquoted himself and meant to say that he was simply rounding down (… to zero).
And then, yesterday, this became news.
The Coalition for the Homeless released a report to the press, stating that the population of those living in shelters has topped 50,000 for the first time since Great Depression. The number is 50,135, on average, to be exact. And a little less than half of that number consists of children.
Unfortunately, as spectacular as that landmark seems, it shouldn’t come as much surprise.
This summer, we reported on the accelerating rate of New York City’s homeless population; a pace that left the city’s Department of Human Services dumbfounded, in a rush to open up additional shelters across the five boroughs. Then, the number was still hovering just below 50,000 — a figure that demonstrated an astounding 18 percent jump in only one year. FYI: this was seven months ago.
But, even then, the Bloomberg administration admitted that the enormous spike was its own fault: by scalping the Advantage program, which subsidized housing for those in shelters willing to work 20 hours a week, an alternative to the homeless population immediately disappeared at the end of 2011. Also, by law, the city must provide some sort of refuge for the homeless. So, with these two parallel actions, the shelters are filling up but no one’s leaving them.
This point was brought up by The Daily News yesterday: Homeless shelter applications are actually down but, once again, the city admitted the 50,000 mark can be attributed to a lack of government intervention. That might help explain the whole Great Depression thing — when City Hall is financially unable to provide an escape from the shelter, it’s only natural that this is going to happen.
At least our elected officials can admit that to themselves.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 5, 2013