ALERT: NYC homeless plan draws fire at Council: RALLY Union Sq.

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 4 Dec 1999 21:07:06 -0800 (PST)


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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 03, 1999 15:28

     MAYOR'S NEW HOMELESS PLAN DRAWS FIRE

     By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
     Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ A testy City Council hearing on the Giuliani
administration's new homeless policy ended abruptly Friday with
welfare commissioner Jason Turner walking out and the city
announcing that homeless families will be required to work for
shelter beginning Dec. 13.

The homeless policy has attracted national attention because of
a provision stipulating that if able-bodied, mentally stable
homeless parents refuse to work, the city can take away their
children, place them in foster care and refuse the adults shelter.

The plan is coupled with a recent police crackdown on the
homeless after a woman on a busy Manhattan street was seriously
injured by a brick thrown by a man originally believed to be
homeless.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has called the policies
``compassionate'' and ``loving'' said during his weekly radio show
on WABC that the city was doing homeless people a service.

``Ignoring homelessness and letting people live on the street
does nothing for the homeless or anyone else,'' he said. ``And
mayors of cities all around the country are in the business of
trying to have cities that are decent, civilized and humane.''

The Republican mayor is expected to run for the U.S. Senate
against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton next year.

New York is believed to be the only major U.S. city that plans
to impose a work-for-shelter requirement.

The policy is supported by 1997 state regulations aimed at
moving the homeless to work, and ultimately to self-sufficiency.
Last February, an appeals court ruled in favor of the city and
against the objections of advocates for the homeless.

The policy, an extension of the city's workfare plan, is
expected to effect about 4,600 families in the shelter system.
Eventually, 7,000 single adults in homeless shelters will also
likely be required to work.

There are an estimated 23,000 homeless people in the city.

On Friday, Giuliani administration officials defended the
work-for-shelter plan to a council committee, saying it was part of
a process to require all healthy adults to work for their benefits.
In order for a parent to have a child taken away, the parent would
have to refuse work repeatedly over several weeks, they said.

Further, the parent would get at least three formal
opportunities to explain their reluctance to work, including an
appearance before an administrative law judge.

Finally, only a family court judge could allow the city to
remove a child to foster care.

``Contrary to much that has been said, we believe that we have
developed a policy whereby only those children, if any, who truly
need to be placed in care, will be so placed,'' said Martin
Oesterreich, the city's commissioner of the Department of Homeless
Services. ``Without the ability to discontinue shelter, (the city)
would lack any meaningful ability to ensure compliance with the
rules.''

Added Turner: ``Almost no able-bodied, sound-minded parent would
agree to have her child taken away (by refusing to work).''

But Turner, noted for his efforts to reduce the welfare rolls in
Wisconsin before arriving in New York, drew heat when he referred
to advocates for the homeless as the ``poverty industry.''

``I was not aware that poverty was an industry,'' said council
member Juanita Watkins. ``But when I listen to some of you, I
believe that you think poverty is a crime.''

Turner and other Giuliani administration officials left the
meeting after about 90 minutes that included several heated
exchanges with City Council members who were clearly opposed to the
plan. Later, Turner said he told council members that he had
planned to leave early, although the council members acted with
surprise and annoyance as he walked out.

``I think the arrogance of this commissioner and this
administration is so outrageous,'' said council member Ronnie
Eldridge.

Opponents of the mayor's plan have scheduled a rally and vigil
for Sunday at Union Square.

Received  Id AP993373CF9FE90 on Dec 03 1999 15:28

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