ALERT: HRA offices stormed in NYC - 20 protesters arrested 7 Dec

Tom Boland (
Thu, 9 Dec 1999 23:32:43 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 08, 1999 00:19


     Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Claiming the city's new welfare drug screening
program has kicked more people off public assistance and medical
care than it has helped get treatment, 20 people stormed the Human
Resources Administration offices and staged a sit-in.

The protesters arrested Tuesday said the agency's policies
toward poor and disabled New Yorkers with drug and alcohol problems
are harsh and inhumane.

Housing Works, together with the New York City AIDS Housing
Network, the Urban Justice Center and Act-Up New York, was
protesting a recent city policy that withholds benefits from
welfare recipients who test positive after one month of treatment
in drug and alcohol programs.

``We need to bring attention to the horrible practices of this
administration that criminalizes poverty and addiction,'' said Lisa
Edwards, a staff attorney for Housing Works, which provides
housing, health care, job training and support services to homeless
and poor residents with HIV or AIDS.

Housing Works counselor Michael Kelly said the city does not
consider medical evidence that relapses should be considered part
of the recovery process.

``Some people who are dropped from their programs don't have
anywhere to go but the street,'' he said.

Twenty protesters staged a 90-minute sit-in on the 25th floor of
HRA's office building in lower Manhattan. Some handcuffed
themselves to desks and other heavy objects while others
commandeered the fax machine to send press releases to various news
organizations. Another 20 people demonstrated outside.

HRA spokeswoman Debra Sproles did not return several telephone
calls seeking comment. But the agency released a statement that
said: ``Once again, Housing Works demonstrated their willingness to
engage in criminal activity. It is a disgrace that they oppose the
city's efforts to help poor people gain access to needed support
services that will ultimately help them to move from dependency to

Protesters told organizers outside the building that HRA
Commissioner Jason A. Turner was in his office when they entered,
but that could not be confirmed.

Protesters outside _ some carrying signs with Turner's photo and
``The grinch who stole benefits'' beneath it _ issued 10 demands to
HRA, including: recognizing recovery as a process and stopping the
practice of punishing relapses with sanctions; and rescinding the
policy of forcing homeless shelter residents to comply with welfare

The protesters entered the building in small groups between 10
a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and told security guards they were going to an
HRA meeting, Ms. Edwards said. There was no meeting scheduled.

HRA employees then called police who responded in force, some
with riot gear and plastic handcuffs. Two police vans carried the
protesters _ kicking and chanting inside _ to the 7th Precinct for
booking. The 11 men and nine women were charged with trespassing.

AP-ES-12-08-99 0120EST
Received  Id AP9934292E658CC on Dec 08 1999 22:01


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