The Partnership for the Homeless

Despite Vow Mayor de Blasio Struggles to Curb Homelessness

In response to the October 27, 2015, article in the NY Times entitled: Despite Vow Mayor de Blasio Struggles to Curb Homelessness

There are no “quick-fixes” to solving homelessness.

That may not assuage the public’s hue and cry. Or satisfy those in government who are out to prove their mettle as problem-solvers within each election cycle.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that Mayor Bill de Blasio is being challenged by the dramatic increases in homelessness.

Over nearly four decades, no mayor has truly taken the long-view and approached homelessness with a strategy for solving it.

Surely, some have been more adept than Mayor de Blasio at skillfully hiding the problem, giving the public the false impression that homelessness is indeed being remedied, or at least under control. A few mayors even blamed homeless people themselves, labeling them as ne’er-do-wells, in order to absolve their administrations of responsibility and divert attention from the depth of the problem.

What has it wrought?

A homeless shelter industry, populated mostly by non-profits collecting lucrative government contracts, who have a significant stake in supporting the status quo - insidiously couching their organizational interests in outmoded social service theory to perpetuate the belief that shelter is needed because homeless people are not “housing ready”.

And, as per the Independent Budget Office, this shelter industry costs over $1 billion dollars each year – a huge price for the privilege of warehousing countless thousands of families and individuals, often in deplorable conditions, with a significant number, shunning shelter, still living on our streets and parks and in our subways.

So what should Mayor de Blasio do?

As a start, the mayor must loosen the stranglehold that the shelter system has on our city’s homeless policy and invest in the infra-structure needed to finally solve homelessness: tackling such things as the dearth of quality, affordable housing, inadequate access to community-based health and mental health care, enervated neighborhood schools, and stagnant local economies that offer few economic opportunities.

It may take much longer than we like – and beyond this mayor’s term. But at least we can begin to lay the groundwork for lasting solutions.

Sincerely,

 

Arnold S. Cohen