[Hpn] ALERT NYC - OPERATION HOMELESS forces 129 to jail, shelters & hosiptals hosiptals

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 2 Jan 2001 19:26:22 -0800 (PST)

CIRCULATE PLEASE to nonviolent defenders of Homeless People's Civil Rights: ALERT NYC - OPERATION HOMELESS forces 129 to jail, shelters & hosiptals FWD Newsday - December 27, 2000 - NEW YORK CITY 'OPERATION HOMELESS' Taken From the Street Freezing weather prompts city effort to remove homeless by SEAN GARDINER AND MELANIE LEFKOWITZ - Staff Writers Police have taken 129 homeless people to shelters, hospitals or jail over the past week under an emergency initiative aimed at removing the homeless from the city's streets during cold weather -- even if they did not want to go. From Dec. 18 to Dec. 25, police made contact with 563 homeless people, said Tom Antenen, a Police Department spokesman. One hundred and sixteen of those people were taken to various homeless shelters, eight went to hospitals and five were arrested for minor offenses or warrants. No action was taken with the remaining people, he said. The city effort, dubbed "Operation Homeless, is a continuation of a program Mayor Rudolph Giuliani initiated last winter, when 5,000 to 6,000 homeless people were taken off the streets. Last year's effort was criticized because it followed the Nov. 16 brick attack on Nicole Barrett by a homeless man, Paris Drake, who was recently convicted. In a question-and-answer session yesterday, Giuliani justified this year's effort by noting that "at this temperature level, if they refuse to go, the police can take them if they want to remain on the street. "Normally you can only arrest a homeless person for committing another crime, the mayor said. "In this kind of weather the rules change. In this kind of weather if they don't come along, and they insist on remaining on the street, we can take them into a shelter for their own good, to save them. Norman Siegel, head of the New York City Civil Liberties Union, which protested last year's initiative, said the city has "no legal authority for the current plan. "We're not aware of any piece of legislation that allows the government to remove people from the street just because it's cold," Siegel said. Siegel and advocates for the homeless said that if the city improved its shelter system there would be no need to force the homeless off the street during cold weather because they would go voluntarily. "It reiterates the point that after 20 years of having homeless people on the streets, we still need to resort to force to get them off the streets," Siegel said. "If we had created viable options, safe, secure facilities for them, you wouldn't have to drag them off the streets." Louis, who lives at the city-run Camp LaGuardia homeless center in Orange County, knows something about being forced into a shelter by police. "If you're sleeping on the train or laying out on the bench, a lot of times they'll knock you, wake you up with their stick, real aggressive," Louis, who declined to give his last name, told Newsday yesterday outside the city's homeless shelter at Bellevue Hospital Center. "When it gets to be a certain temperature, like last night, they come on the train and say you can't be there," he said. "They don't force you, but sometimes really aggressive they try to take you off the train." Louis said conditions at the city's shelters, which include violence and drug use, force many people to stay outside even in the cold. When the weather dips into the teens and single digits as it has recently, choosing the streets over shelters "could be a real death sentence," said Mary Brosnihan, of the Coalition for the Homeless. Brosnihan added that the city does not have enough shelter beds. Robert Mascali, spokesman for the city's Department of Homeless Services, said yesterday that the shelter system currently has 611 available beds. But Brosnihan said figures the city sends the coalition under a court order showed that as of yesterday there were only 234 shelter openings for single men and 166 for single women. Brosnihan said that should be enough beds to accommodate single women but not enough for single men. "If this bitter weather continues for the next several days, the mayor could be out of shelter beds," Brosnihan said. [Staff Writer Robert Polner contributed to this story.] END FORWARD **In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.** Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People's Civil Rights: ************************************************************ 9000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy ************************************************************