NY Homeless Can Legally PAY CASH For Shelters - by Denis Drew FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 11 Dec 1999 17:30:55 -0800 (PST)

FWD  11 Dec 1999
CC Replies to AUTHOR: "Denis Drew" <ddrew2u@ix.netcom.com>


Why cannot the N.Y. homeless PAY a small payment, say five dollars, for a
night in a shelter? About half what it costs to stay in a flop house -- if
there were any where near as many flop houses as are needed to get most of
these indiduals off the street (see my addendum on why the city should
subsidize the building of new flops).

No one is disqualified as homeless for having five bucks in their pocket.
Five dollars to stay the night indoors is easy enough to come up with for
many homeless individuals.  (An extra hour pandhandling?)

Homeless advocates can argue in court that the government cannot compel
work for what somebody is able to pay for. If nothing else, the
pay-for-shelter issue could send the whole controversy back to the courts
for long enough for New York to get a mayor with a human heart.

I am going to e-mail this idea around to newspapers and whatever homeless
helpers I can find on the web.  Doubt if anyone will listen though.


Why not build or subsidize new flop houses for the homeless that would
charge $5 a night?  That way we would be pooling the limited amount the tax
payer has, historically, been willing to build for the homeless, inhuman
shelters -- worse than the street -- with the per diem rent derelicts have
historically been willing to come up with on their own to create humane
housing -- more than marginally better than sleeping on the street.

Who would not prefer to stay in an individual booth in a safe flop
(discussion on flop safety below) that you rent on a 24 hour basis to a
stinking, dangerous common room shelter?

We desire to help a homeless population that, for the most part, doesn't
desire to work to hard to help itself.  When I reside in San Francisco
periodically (driving a cab for DeSoto in the winter time) I see the same
crew working the same street corners year in and year out. These folks
should be more than willing to come up with the $5 or $8 per diem that
flops typically cost -- always were in the past when flops were available
in every city.

My first personal experience with a not too safe, but not to bad flop
happened by accident in 1969 when for I had to make a quick move from my
Bronx apartment.  I looked in the newspaper for cheap hotels and saw the
"clean and safe" advertisement for the Hotel Greenwich, 160 Bleeker Street.
When I first saw the room I rented I felt sorry for everybody who was in
jail. The longest measurement was from the floor to the ceiling.  The
length was bed length and the width seemed one foot more than the bed --
which had the defensive advantage of making entry impossible if you slid
the bed over to block the door; everyone did.

This place was not that unsafe.  It was under a new management who had
hired a crew of young Jewish guys for security guards.  I even ran into
Congresswoman Bella Abzug in there.  She was walking around with the
manager and some of her political lackeys on the excuse that most were on
welfare which was subsidized federally.  To be funny I shouted over the
throng: "You shouldn't be walking around in here because there are guys
walking around in the underwear"; to which she shouted back: "I'm of age".

In my years as a street peddler, at this same time, I learned from the
denizens I ran into on the street about specific safe flops (the Pioneer
and the Providence on the Bowery and the Elkwood House in the Times Square
area) and actually made use of this information at times when my apartment
might be being painted or a friend was staying with his wife.

A safe flop can be much safer than the Times Square Whatever Motel.  As
long as management is particular about who gets in, if anybody tries to rob
or burglarize there are 40 "hillbillies" on every floor to come out of
their booths and put a stop to it.  Not to mention there isn't much to

When I last visited New York City in 1992 I drove a cab to see how the
business was (not what most people would do on vacation: drive a cab in New
York :-]) and when I passed though the Bowery I noticed that all but one
flop was gone.  There used to be CHAINS of flops houses there in the late
'60s; Lyon's Houses being the most common.  Former Bowery residents have
moved on to Park Avenue -- and Market Street -- I presume.

Don't worry about subsidized flops flooding San Francisco with more
homeless. San Francisco's big draw is it's OUT of doors environment.  If
subsidizing flops (instead of scary shelters) works for the homeless in San
Francisco it will work anywhere and could quickly become the national
practice: which will make San Francisco's winter climate less of an
attraction in the long run. Move derelicts off the street and BACK into the
flops -- where they always wanted to be.

P.S.  I stayed once or twice, for a short duration, at the Providence --
the flop they protrayed in this month's "Harper's" -- way back in the late
'60s or early '70s.  It seemed pretty safe to me, back then at least.  But
back then there enough flops  to make a strata of better and worse.  The
best was purported to be the Pioneer -- across the street from the
Providence if I remember correctly.  I tried to use the Pioneer once but
they rejected me.  I was worried my shoes might look a little too beat up
for them.  Sure enough, I noticed the big guy at the top of the stairs
looking at my shoes and then looking at the guy behind the window and
shaking his head, no.  At the time I was working at the nearby Municipal
Building as a city clerk and was either letting somebody use my apartment
or my apartment was being painted or something.  "Snobbery" on the Bowery!

Denis Drew
Chicago  (until 12/15; then to San Francisco for the winter)


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