The Partnership for the Homeless

De Blasio’s Calculated Risk: Making a Case for Shelters

A response to the NYT article, March 27, 2017

The only way Mayor Bill de Blasio can sell his plan to open 90 new homeless shelters is to develop, alongside that plan, a plan that realistically ends our reliance on shelters.  Yes, a plan that sets credible goals and outcomes, and has targeted metrics for success, so that all New Yorkers can track his progress.

Right now, the mayor – like all of his recent predecessors – is just tinkering around the edges of a fundamentally flawed homeless services system.  And, without tackling our affordable housing crisis for poor New Yorkers, we’re, once again, digging the homeless rut we’ve been in for nearly four decades deeper and deeper, while the misery index for those New Yorkers without homes continues to rise.  Indeed, every day nearly 100 families with young children, sometimes more, are knocking on shelter doors looking for a place to stay.

Surely, it’s a herculean task to finally solve the problem and the mayor is being compassionate in trying not to dislocate families from their communities and children from their schools.  But we must do better than manage the problem a little bit better than we have in the past, still trudging uphill like Sisyphus for the foreseeable future, spending enormous tax dollars on shelter and other stop-gap measures that solve nothing.

Arnold S. Cohen

President & CEO