Thursday, November 10, 2011

Homeless Shelter Policy In NYC Hits Asinine Levels; Hearings Match

The NYC City Council held a hearing yesterday over a homeless shelter policy change that was going to require a homeless person prove that they had no where else to go in order to gain admission to a shelter. How asinine is it to have that kind of policy, though the administrators claimed that with so many people seeking shelter they have to turn away those who really need assistance and that they lack the funds to make sufficient sheltering possible. And the City Council, which has to balance competing funding needs - can't find the money to fund the programs, but will hammer away at the officials putting forth a policy justified because they lack the funding to do otherwise:
Ten years ago, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office, the homeless population stood at less than 25,000. In 2004, when the homeless population stood at 38,000, he promised to cut the number by two-thirds. This week, the Coalition for the Homeless put out a new report, with an eye-catcher: the homeless population stands at 41,204.

Seth Diamond, the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, showed up on Wednesday at a City Council meeting to testify about the changes in eligibility. He read his testimony as if working his way through the agate in a bond offering, his voice a dead-on-arrival monotone.

Herewith, a Diamond sampler: “State administrative Directive 94 ADM-20 states in pertinent part and I quote ...”

The homeless, he noted, can “explore their options.” If there is “a situation,” there will be “discussions.”

It is, he noted, “incumbent upon us to assist those seeking shelter services to avoid entering the shelter system.”

A George Orwell shudder to the side, it’s not hard to sympathize with those officials who care for homeless people. Theirs is a Sisyphean task, as they are given too little money and tasked with sheltering too many of the poor in a city that grows more expensive by the hour.

Press on one policy lever or another, and something always seems to go tilt.

Money is perpetually tight. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration cut $50 million from a New York City housing program for homeless families. City officials refuse to make up the difference, and thousands of families face eviction.

The shelter system undoubtedly looks and smells better than it did years back. And Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Cuomo have pumped many millions of dollars into creating supportive housing for homeless people who are mentally ill, which is the only sure means of reducing shelter numbers.

The City Council can be its own punch line. But Wednesday was one of those days when, in its inchoate anger and frustration and lack of politesse, the council members became a rarely heard collective voice of New York.
How can anyone prove that they have no where else to go?

You can't. It's a policy designed to try and exclude people from the shelter system, and it creates all kinds of perverse incentives to exclude individuals from shelters.

This comes as the need for shelters is greater than ever and the same preening City Council members can't find the funds to make the shelter system work.


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