The Partnership for the Homeless

Finding Solutions Beyond Homeless Shelters

Finding Solutions Beyond Homeless Shelters (a response to the NYT article, "Cuomo Issues Order to Move Homeless Indoors in Freezing Weather", January 4, 2016)

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Letters

Finding Solutions Beyond Homeless Shelters

JAN. 8, 2016

To the Editor:

Re “Cuomo Issues Order to Move Homeless Indoors in Freezing Weather” (news article, Jan. 4):

With the cold weather finally here, the sad winter ritual begins again. This time it’s Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issuing an edict to remove all homeless people from the street and place them in shelters.

Surely, the governor’s impulse seems humanitarian — perhaps with a pinch of pepper to tweak Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is ideologically opposed to such an effort. But whatever the motivation, the governor should know by now that it won’t be effective. If we’ve learned anything from the past, we’ve learned that aggressive outreach efforts will only push people to the outer ridges of the city, making them harder, if not impossible, to reach. At best, it’ll give us the illusion that the problem is under control.

And while the quality of shelters certainly plays a role in choosing to remain on the street, even smaller, friendlier shelters, which the city euphemistically calls “safe havens,” won’t lure people in from the cold.

By now, it’s a broken record that’s played for years — it’s “housing, housing, housing, not shelter, shelter, shelter” that works. Yes, even for those who are struggling with severe mental health issues.

ARNOLD S. COHEN

President and Chief Executive