Letters to the editor, Dec. 13

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

NYC homeless made to compete for help

The following is an open letter to Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo:

Perhaps if either of you, or any of our esteemed local representatives took the time to chat with some of the younger homeless, as I have, you/they would discover (as I did) that most of the people, aged 16-50, come from other states, as close as NJ and as far away as the Dakotas!

That being said, I do believe that NY State and City residents should help the homeless, but help our homeless first.  There must be a law somewhere, or one should be written and introduced that would give preferential treatment to NYC citizens out of our NYC taxes.  At the same time, our NY government should send these young, able-bodied (but mostly alcohol or drug-addicted) men and women back to the state they came from, and let those tax payers take care of their own.  You could start by asking for any kind of identification before giving them services such as food stamps, housing or a bus ticket to their home state!

The other big burden we share are the many single mothers, most of whom have live-in boyfriends, but don’t marry because the men don’t want to share the responsibility or the rent!

If any of our powers that be would walk First Avenue from 23rd Street to 32nd Street, near the men’s shelter, methadone clinics, out-patient services at Bellevue or any place where there are banks or drugstores, or any store front on the Avenues south of 50th Street, you will see hundreds of panhandlers, barely out of their teens, with signs begging for money.  The cardboard signs say all kinds of things to gain sympathy, and a cup at their feet for donations.

I am a life-long Democrat, as is my entire family, some of whom were active in politics. However, I think that the Democrats, in particular Mayor De Blasio, are ruining our city.  I hope he and Governor Cuomo read the above and do something about it!

Barbara Zapson, ST

A real job for the public advocate

Two items in Thursday, November 15 Local Week In Review column in T&V left me scratching my head.

The first is a Gothamist report that food trucks will be getting letter grades in December. The second is that Politico reports that the City Council is considering abolishing the office of the public advocate.

I submit that an effective public advocate would find a way to get food carts off the street and into the many, many available storefronts near where they take up street space.

I rewrite history most every day at NYU, a very congested area where there’s been street construction on West 4th for years. Why are these carts on the street blocking pedestrian traffic when they could move from pop-up to pop-up store right there? That would be one of many good projects for a public advocate.

After all, if the public advocate is eliminated, both candidates and consultants will be peeved at these Council members for eliminating a citywide campaign. And the guys sponsoring the bill don’t have the chance to be mayor as they think they do.

Billy Sternberg, ST


One thought on “Letters to the editor, Dec. 13

  1. The NYC Department of Homeless Services staff does offer, if not emphasize, the option for shelter residents from other states and countries to return home or elsewhere they may have family or friends who will take them in. DHS purchases one-way tickets for any means of transport (on NY taxpayers’ money) to send them back through Project Reconnect. It’s considered a shelter outplacement, just like putting them in housing from the shelter might be. The catch is, they can, and oftentimes do, come right back here to the city and re-enter the shelter system all over again. Will the city buy them another ticket back to their out-of-state or international family and friends again? That would be an affirmative answer. New York has a right-to-shelter law that emanated from the landmark court case, Callahan v. Carey, beginning in 1979, with several successive court rulings. You can read about it in its entirety on the Coalition for the Homeless’s website:


    The bottom line is, homelessness is an industry in New York City. Yes, it is supported by taxpayer funds, but it provides jobs (for shelter workers, along with all related City and private agencies that run shelters) and commerce for third-party vendors who supply the shelters. Homelessness has become as great an industry as regular tourism has been in NYC, and because business is flowing from placing “homeless” people in our shelters, legitimately homeless or not, no one in government is going to discourage out-of-towners from entering the shelter system. Apart from the government funds (federal, state, and local) that are provided toward shelter operations, every homeless individual who is eligible for public assistance is required, by the contractual agreement he or she signs upon shelter intake, to apply for and maintain full public assistance, specifically, the cash benefit from HRA (welfare).

    A single adult living alone might typically get almost $200 a month in cash, plus an HRA accommodation benefit of $215 per month, if a landlord will accept it. The same person residing in a shelter and applying for full public assistance will be awarded $45 a month. The shelter will get the rest of that person’s benefit ($190-$45 each month) until outplacement in housing (or residential drug/alcohol rehab and the like) is achieved. The person who got $190 a month before coming to the shelter will have that cash benefit reduced to $45 a month, with the shelter then being awarded the rest until his or her move-out.

    Not everyone in the shelters is eligible for cash assistance, so this is not the bulk of the shelters’ funding, just some icing on the cake, so to speak. Out-of-state citizens who take up residence in shelters in NYC can apply for, and are frequently accepted for, full public assistance. Their investigatory process by HRA takes longer if they’re from out of state, but if the person is approved, then the shelter gets the monthly cash award less $45 going to the public-assistance recipient.

    It can be seen in the standard budget breakdown that HRA gives its clients. They even pay something like $30 a month for the use of a phone that is shared with a couple hundred other shelter residents, which may or may not always be in working order, and which they have to wait their turn to use. Ironically, they can sign up for their own free cell phones once they’ve applied for any type of public assistance, right outside of the HRA offices when they leave.

    So, shelter arrivals from out of state are kind of making NYC homeless people compete, but they’re also adding to the shelter coffers, and Callahan v. Carey or not, no one is going to throw them out, en masse. The only shelter residents who are not native to New York who do not lend to the support of the shelters financially are those undocumented citizens from all over the world who are ineligible for public assistance. However, they still occupy beds that are supported by government funds, and the more need there is for more beds, the more funds will flow toward the building of shelters, and the more shelters they build, the more people the city and its shelter-providing partners will have to hire to run them.

    Employment in the Social Services sector has exploded in the last decade. At least NYC is providing services. Homelessness is rampant everywhere, and if you look online, you’ll see that other cities in California, as an example, are just now implementing plans toward building more shelters to handle their burgeoning numbers of street-homeless people.

    As funds for this increase across American states and more shelters are built, you can be sure that those states with the warmer year-round climates will be stiff competition to New York, and then homeless people (or homeless wannabe shelter clients who just “ran away from home” to seek independent living from their parents) will stay in their own states.

    There is so much homelessness, there will have to be funding to address it all over the country and the world, or else traffic won’t be able to get through the streets, over and around the masses of people living on them.

    The bottom line is, Capitalism doesn’t work, for most of the world’s citizens. It makes people dysfunctional, and dysfunctional people become homeless, over and over. But it gives those who work in shelters jobs, and businesses that supply food, cots, mattresses, linens, soap, combs, disinfectants, and more–you’ve got it–a steady stream of capital. Open for RFPs.

    Hope this sheds some light on the problem here citywide.

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