The Partnership for the Homeless

“The only group the mayor can reliably count on for support is shelter providers.”

A response to the NYT article, May 18, 2017

Re: A Homeless Shelter Plan in Place, Now Mayor Quiety Searches for Allies


As Mayor Bill de Blasio tries to garner some political traction for his plan to open 90 new shelters, in the face of community opposition, the only group he can reliably count on for support is shelter providers.

That support, of course, is understandable given the huge monetary stake this group has in promoting the mayor’s plan. As we’ve seen over the years, the shelter system in New York City has spawned an entrenched industry, where shelter providers insidiously couch their self-interest in outmoded social service theory that shelter is needed because homeless people are supposedly not “housing ready.”

But let’s be honest, shelters are not desirable for any neighborhood. They’re especially not for those who find themselves with no other place but a shelter to call home. Shelters are usually poorly run and allowed to fall into decrepit condition – and they’re a poor substitute for our city’s mental health and other social support systems.

What’s more, it’s now beyond dispute that housing, not shelter, is the critical first step to solving homelessness. Research confirms that housing is central to success, debunking old notions of readiness even for those who are struggling with significant mental health or drug or alcohol use issues.

Surely, if we don’t finally shift our priorities to finding solutions to our affordable housing crisis for homeless and at-risk New Yorkers, we’ll be trudging down the same path – or uphill like Sisyphus – years from now, spending enormous tax dollars on shelter and other stop-gap measures that solve nothing.  And we’ll likely see children, languishing in shelter today, grow into adulthood, still unable to find a home of their own, pitted against community residents who are railing against city administrators for trying to build a shelter in their backyard.

Arnold S. Cohen

President & CEO