Re: NYC Tough Love homeless policy: Will it work? FWD

Tom Musselwhite (
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 23:24:29 -0800

----- Original Message -----
From: Tom Boland <>
Sent: Monday, December 13, 1999 8:17 PM
Subject: NYC Tough Love homeless policy: Will it work? FWD

> What do recovering addicts think of NYC's homeless policy?

Let's step back from the reactionary mode for a minute.

For me the questions are more along the lines of:  1)  How do you get the
"resources" to the people in most dire need of life sustaining basics like
adequate food/nutrition and protection from cold, rain, etc in a context
that puts most of the responsibility (and consequences) for their own
situation into the hands of the persons with the need?  To h____ with
Googoolini,  Googoolini don't require work; life requires work.  And 2)
Perhaps provide those resources in a "service enriched" environmnt where
potential dysfuntions, particularly affecting children, can be observed, and
whether causes are emotional/psychological, substance abuse/addiction
related, or domestic abuse/violence related subsequent intervention can
occur to route "troubled" people/parents and/or kids to specific programs
that address those needs.  My goal would be to keep family units intact and
place as few encumberances upon aid recipients as possible.  Aid recipeints
will have to be able to believe that they can improve their situation
through their own efforts.  This really comes back to the sustainable
communities / lifestyles issues we have talked about, yes?

The bigger forces (issues) are not "in the victims", the greater issues are
national/international drug policy (the War on Drugs), fair taxation, and
equitable access to health care and affordable housing within the context of
a sustainable situation.

> Christian Science Monitor - DECEMBER 7, 1999
> New York laws apply welfare-reform ideals to
> homelessness - work if you are 'able.'
> Alexandra Marks
> Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
> Marie Bresil sits with her hands clasped tightly
> around the pocketbook in her lap, nervously
> twiddling her fingers as tears seep from the corners
> of her eyes. She's staring straight ahead,
> impassively.
>     QUIET PETITION: Shoppers in San Francisco
>     pass Mick Smith. Despite America's continuing
>     prosperity, homelessness has persisted as a
>     significant social problem nationwide.
> A homeless mother cut off from welfare, she's now
> frightened she could lose the room she shares here
> in a shelter with three children because of a new city
> policy that requires all "able-bodied" boarders to
> work. "What do they want me to do: live in the
> streets?" she asks quietly.
> Like thousands of homeless people in New York,
> Ms. Bresil is caught in an emerging national debate
> over how best to deal with homelessness - a
> seemingly intractable problem that has refused to
> give way despite the nation's booming economy.
> Escalating housing prices have forced thousands out
> of their apartments and homes, creating a new
> generation of homeless - many families and
> children. The result is a growing challenge for
> urban and suburban America. Many cities,
> concerned about the visibility of the homeless and
> eager to promote self-sufficiency, have cracked
> down on those living on sidewalks.
> But poverty groups contend that such moves only
> amount to "criminalizing" homelessness and
> exacerbate the problem.
> "It's an unfortunate trend that comes out of
> frustration in terms of responding to the
> complexities of the issue," says Philip Mangano,
> executive director of the Massachusetts Housing
> and Shelter Alliance.
> Perhaps nowhere is the tension more visible at the
> moment than in New York, where Mayor Rudolph
> Giuliani (R) is trying to apply the self-sufficiency
> ethic of welfare reform to the homeless. He's
> decreed that those who bed down in cardboard
> boxes on city streets will be arrested if they don't
> move along or accept the help the city offers. And
> starting this month, all able-bodied people living in
> shelters must work or they can be tossed out and
> their children put in foster care.
> Mr. Giuliani defends his new approach as truly
> compassionate. "Attaching social responsibilities to
> social programs helps people move away from
> dependency toward self-sufficiency," says Anthony
> Coles, a senior mayoral adviser.
> On any given night nationwide, an estimated
> 600,000 to 700,000 people sleep in shelters. While
> the numbers vary from city to city, a snapshot of
> New York and Philadelphia shows that as many as
> 60 percent of those people are families and children,
> 30 percent are single homeless, and 10 percent are
> mentally ill.
> Recent studies indicate that more families and
> children are cycling in and out of shelters on a
> short-term basis than previously thought. In
> New York, while 23,000 people reside in
> shelters on a given night, more than
> 85,000 people will stay in a shelter at some
> point during the year.
> "We found that about 6 percent of poor
> families are homeless in a year, and about 10
> percent of poor children under the age
> of 5 are homeless in a year," says Dennis Culhane,
> a professor of social policy at the University of
> Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
> Homeless advocates attribute much of the new
> pressure on families to the escalation in rent prices,
> as vacancy rates shrink and poorer neighborhoods
> become gentrified. "The economic boom is having a
> kind of paradoxical impact on the poorest members
> of this society," says Maria Foscarinis, executive
> director of the National Law Center on
> Homelessness and Poverty in Washington.
> A recent study done by the center found that 48 of
> the 50 states have enacted new laws or revived old
> ones designed to get homeless people off the
> streets.
> During a nine-month period in 1998, San Francisco
> police issued more than 16,000 "quality of life"
> tickets, most to homeless people. In Tucson, Ariz.,
> the city council proposed "privatizing" the
> sidewalks, which would have allowed business
> owners to keep people from sleeping in front of
> stores.
> Homeless activists say New York has gone the
> furthest in its crackdown, confusing the threat of
> prison sentences with instilling personal
> responsibility. They believe such policies make it
> harder to deal with a complicated social problem.
> "This flies in the face of everything that we know
> about how to end homelessness," says Nan Roman
> of the National Alliance to End Homelessness in
> Washington.
> But some conservatives believe that, as with welfare
> reform, the best solution is a "tough-love" approach
> with a clear set of expectations, requirements, and
> penalties. "Giuliani is right to require work," says
> Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation in
> Washington. "We've been down the other route,
> and it just increases the dependence and the
> breakdown of the family."
> Ms. Roman and other advocates respond that
> putting children in foster care will only exacerbate
> the homeless problem in the long run. Studies have
> shown that at least three times as many homeless
> people were foster children at one time, compared
> with the general population.
> To the Giuliani administration, a parent who won't
> work is endangering his or her children. "If after a
> series of interventions, a healthy bodied parent
> won't work to support his children and is willing to
> put them on the street, it raises questions about a
> risk of neglect," says Mr. Coles.
> In the end, advocates for people like Bresil say the
> city has to do more to ensure people get the services
> they need and aren't punished by the complicated
> paperwork and rules of the city's workfare
> program. Bresil has been in four shelters in five
> months. She says she was cut off from welfare
> because she missed an appointment with a
> caseworker. She says she never got a notice,
> because she had no permanent address.
>    The URL for this page is:
>    For further information:
>        Civil Rights of Homeless People National
>        Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
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