DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS!
By Max R. Weller
I’d posted this story from the Associated Press via ABC News on Facebook and Twitter earlier this morning, and because it’s so insightful I’m using it on my blog now, too.
A surge in homelessness is bedeviling New York City, and dozens of homeless people made it clear in interviews that it will take more than outreach programs by the mayor and governor to bring them in from the cold . . .
All said they would rather take their chances on the street in frigid weather than turn to a shelter system they described as filthy, violent, vermin-infested, and rife with mental illness and addiction.
“I haven’t talked to any cops, or social workers, or anybody,” John Gallup, 30, said while collecting change outside a Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side. “And the shelters here are horrible. I feel safer on the street.”
Michael Cliff, begging in Manhattan’s Union Square Park, said he won’t go to a city shelter due to worries about violence. But, for now, Cliff has a more immediate fear.
“I’m scared. … I’m really scared I’m going to die out here when it’s cold,” said the 32-year-old, who said he was once an actor.
Last week, during a bitter cold snap, city officials said outreach workers persuaded 97 homeless people to go into shelters one night and 62 the next. The city’s long-running Code Blue program requires those workers to comb the streets for panhandlers when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
But John Hamarics, 54, panhandling on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, told the AP that New York City’s shelters are “a ferocious pigsty.” One East Side shelter, he said, was “infested with mice, burrowing in our food bags” and another was “notorious for criminals and people robbing each other’s cellphones, robbing each other’s clothes, robbing each other’s food.”
He instead opts to sleep on the steps of a Park Avenue church, fortified every few hours with a $2.18 cup of hot soup from a nearby Subway sandwich shop. Hamarics said he hadn’t noticed any changes since the two outreach initiatives began.
“The exact same people are still in the exact same place,” said Hamarics, who identified himself as a skilled carpenter looking for a job.
Comptroller Scott Stringer, saying he’s “horrified,” released an audit finding more than 18,000 health or safety violations — including vermin infestation, busted smoke detectors and peeling lead paint — at the city’s 500 shelters. Reports of violent incidents against shelter staff and residents have also increased by 55 percent, from 504 in the fiscal year 2012 to 783 in the fiscal year 2015, according to city records.
De Blasio, whose agenda has been dominated by a need to address the city’s homelessness crisis, has announced a plan to step up repairs to city shelters, acknowledging that “for decades our shelters have not been safe enough or clean enough, and that’s just not acceptable.” But most of the homeless people interviewed last month were skeptical that the city was following through on its plan and doubted the problem could ever be solved.
Here in Boulder, it MUST be acknowledged that there are more people sleeping outdoors — even during the wintertime — than are being sheltered at BSH and BOHO combined. The Homeless Philosopher hasn’t stayed overnight in the former facility since April of 2010 and NEVER in the latter.
I can’t speak to do-gooders in NYC, but here in Boulder, CO I don’t expect them to stop patting themselves on the back long enough to give the matter any in-depth thought . . . It will be more of the same ol’, same ol’ along with “kill the messenger” who is critical of the status quo.
Line of homeless men and women checking in at BOHO.