Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sheltered Homeless Should Be Working To Get Out, Not To Be Stuck In The System

Homelessness and New York City have a precarious relationship to say the least. The city has always had a large population of the financially dispossessed, but the way we treat them has changed considerably. The affluent had Giuliani and Bloomberg make them disappear from public spaces to a large degree (sometimes it's easier to not see the disparity in society when you are on the good end of the economic spectrum, eh?). Unfortunately for the eyes of the upper crust, individuals and families on the brink frequently fall into homelessness and must rely on public assistance to help get them back on their feet.

A state law passed in 1997 mandating the homeless pay rent for their shelter was widely ignored by the city, but now supposedly due to an audit, Bloomberg's Administration is about to comply:

"Open-ended handouts, we know, don't work," Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said. "This is not a moneymaker. We're not doing this to close budget gaps. It's really the principles ... involved."

A 1997 state law requires New York to charge rent to the homeless who can afford it. The city never did, but has been pressed to do it since a state audit last year.

Shelter residents would have to pay as much as 44% of their income in their first year in the program.

It may not be a "moneymaker," but for the homeless it is ruinous when nearly half your income is taken away to pay for temporary housing. Advocates for the homeless are naturally protesting this policy action yet the city is going ahead and complying with the law. What the city should be doing instead is to demand that the state repeal the law, and help those who are homeless that are actually taking the initiative to obtain jobs and get their lives in order. We as a society should be benevolent towards the less fortunate, not to be forcing them to stay in the poor house indefinitely.