The Partnership for the Homeless

Mayor Scrambles to Curb Homelessness After Years of Not Keeping Pace

A response to the NYT article, January 13, 2017

Another press conference on the steps of City Hall with advocates bemoaning the state of homelessness.  Contrite, well-intentioned city officials wringing their hands in response, having no long-term solutions, but instead just relying on emergency stop-gap measures.

For anyone who lives or works in New York City it must feel like déjà vu all over again.

Yes, we’ve lost control over homelessness. There’s no real prospect, in the near-term, of stemming the tide of New Yorkers falling over the precipice into shelter. For instance, it’s become routine to see every day nearly 100 or more families knocking on shelter doors looking for a place to stay. Countless others are on the brink, doubling-up with family members or paying significantly more than 50% of their income toward rent.

Nothing seems to change, other than that the problem is getting worse. And every year the homeless rut our city dug itself into gets deeper and deeper with successive mayors reflexively building more shelters, while housing - and long-term planning - gets lost amid the sense of urgency.

With such a dismal outlook, have we reached a tipping point for change?

If we don’t dramatically shift to a new paradigm, with affordable housing and a strategy to lift folks up economically as the key ingredients of a robust community-based homeless prevention effort, we’re bound to be trudging down the same path years from now - or uphill like Sisyphus - spending enormous tax dollars on shelter that solve nothing.  We’ll continue to see mayors, with little in their toolkit, responding to public demands with efforts that are determined more by politics than substance.  And we’ll see children, who are languishing in shelters today, grow into adulthood, still unable to find a home of their own, pitted against community residents railing at city administrators for trying to build a shelter in their backyard.

Arnold S. Cohen
President & CEO