Gov't to the Poor: Sleep in the Streets! (fwd)

P. Myers (
Sat, 20 Dec 1997 13:43:02 -0800 (PST)

Please call your fed. reps and email white house... pat myers

Followup-To: alt.activism.d


By John Catalinotto	

The other shoe is about to drop. 

First, in the summer of 1996, President Bill Clinton and 
the Congress repealed the 60-year-old federal welfare law 
providing subsistence benefits for the poorest members of 
the working class. Now the Congress is preparing to repeal 
the 60-year-old federal law providing public housing, 
pushing these same people--mostly unemployed women and their 
children--onto the streets.

They'll pass it, that is, unless a mass struggle is waged 
to defend public housing. That would stop them.

The repeal of both the welfare and housing laws is an 
assault on the entire working class. But they are crafted to 
divide the class by creating a sub-class of the poorest and 
most oppressed people.

The New York City Housing Authority has jumped out ahead 
of the new law. Officials have announced that starting Jan. 
1, welfare recipients who apply for public housing will be 
assigned the lowest priority. People with low-income jobs 
will receive preference.

Mary Brosnahan of the Coalition for the Homeless slammed 
the new policy, warning it would create "a tidal wave of 

The Housing Authority will shut out those who need 
subsidized housing the most. It pits the working poor 
against people without jobs, rather than solving the 
enormous housing problems that both face. 


New York has 180,000 units of public housing. About 8,000 
become available each year. There are 130,000 applicants on 
the waiting list for those few spots. 

What is really needed is a tremendous increase in public 
housing and in funds to assure that the housing is 
adequately maintained.

The new housing bill contains no such increase. Called the 
"Housing Opportunity and Responsibility Act," the bill 
passed the House May 14 by a vote of 293-132. 

Both Republicans and Democrats supported it. It is on the 
Senate agenda for the new year.

The bill repeals the 1937 Public Housing Act. Like the 
federal welfare laws, unemployment insurance and Social 
Security, this law was passed during the Great Depression. 

These laws were a response to mass struggles by workers 
and the unemployed, demanding some relief from the worst 

Gutting these laws attempts to throw the poorest workers 
on the scrap heap and pull down all other layers of the 
working class. It's the Contract with America without all 
the fanfare.

The new law would also require "all able-bodied public-
housing residents to contribute eight hours per month of 
community service." In other words, like workfare, it 
imposes a new type of slavery on a section of the working 


This new attack is compounded by the big cuts already made 
to welfare. With less money coming in and no public housing 
available, more people on welfare will wind up with no 
housing at all.

More people asked for emergency food and shelter in U.S. 
cities in 1997. The U.S. Conference of Mayors said Dec. 15 
it expects to see even greater need in 1998, based on a 
survey of hunger and homelessness in 29 cities. 

Some 86 percent of the cities reported an increase in food 
requests; 59 percent had more requests for emergency 

According to the survey, "city officials report that the 
strong economy has had little or no effect on either hunger 
or homelessness and that few people affected by those 
problems have benefited from the economy."

On Dec. 16, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 
released the results of its study, finding that the income 
gap has surged in the last decade. The prosperous economy, 
according to the CBPP report, has benefited only the rich.

In New York, the gap between the poorest 20 percent and 
the richest 20 percent is the widest of all. The average 
income for the bottom fifth of households with children in 
New York is $6,787. For the top fifth it's $132,390.

Yet this is the city where the poorest are to be denied 
subsidized housing. Legal Aid Society of New York Litigation 
Director Scott Rosenberg said the Housing Authority is 
"doing this in response to budget cuts. 

"The real issue is that the Housing Authority is seeking 
more income by the somewhat perverse means of excluding 
those in greatest need," he said.

                         - END -

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