Homeless in New York: Go Directly to Jail! (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (wy497@victoria.tc.ca)
Mon, 20 Jul 1998 21:06:23 -0700 (PDT)

this is obscene..
The treatment of other people.
And they wonder why the homeless are so distrustful of the "so-called
normal society"

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 17:38:59 -0700 (PDT)
From: Geneva Hagen <ws222@victoria.tc.ca>
To: Jerry Schneiderman <76702.667@compuserve.com>
Cc: "W. Robert Arnold" <wc515@victoria.tc.ca>,
    Leslie Schentag <wy497@victoria.tc.ca>,
    Joel Rubinstein <jrubinstein@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Homeless in New York:  Go Directly to Jail!

	It seems there's a worm in the apple... the following just
forwarded to me by a Toronto poverty activist.


---------- Forwarded message ----------

                    Robert Yamashita and Alice Gorman
January 1998


1) There is little recognition of the dignity, will, inherent skills and
diversity of the individual persons experiencing homelessness.

2) There is no recognition of the strength and potential of the community of
homeless people (there is no Community Development component).

3) There is no systemic analysis about the root societal/economic/
globalization causes to homelessness.

4) Community development, or any non-judgmental approach that starts with
where people are at (e.g., harm reduction, self-help, CED) are antithesis
to the Continuum of Care (C of C) approach. 

5) The program definition of "Continuum" means a linked system that the
individual must move through in designated timeframes as opposed to our
interpretation of a "Continuum" as a set of options to be used when and if
the person chooses. 

6) The program is based in the belief that homelessness is essentially the
result of individual mental illness, addictions and unemployment.  The
personal responsibility tenets of the program are imbued with judgements
of laziness, weakness of character, lack of accountability, criminality
and sickness.  The clients are almost exclusively African and Hispanic -

7) The solution to homelessness is a coordinated treatment program
complemented with a time-limited private-sector-based housing subsidy
program. The assessment aspects of the program are limited in their
diagnoses by the narrow levels of C of C responses. 

8) The program is very expensive, time-limited and based in zero

9) The program was a precursor but is presently the implementing program
to the national Personal Responsibility Legislation. 

10) Public and private sector support is garnered through immediate and
tangible results e.g., no visible homeless population, perceptions of
crime reduction, increased business and tourism.

11) The program supports a new layer of unqualified private sector service

12) The existing community based agencies have changed their localized/
client-centred approach in order to be part of city/state wide program.

13) The clients, patients or customers are expected to assimilate into
mainstream jobs, housing and society and be independent of any
program/subsidy support within a 2-year timeframe. 

14) The localized nature of homeless persons' existence has been
dislocated in the transportation of individuals out of their
neighbourhoods and in some cases out of the city. 

	[They did this here in Victoria before the Commonwealth Games.]

15) Visible homelessness has been criminalized and the police form the
frontline to the points of entry into the Continuum. This is empowered by
law in Mayor Guiliani's "Quality of Life" act. 

16) By state legislation, all homeless services must have full security
measures including metal detectors and personal searches. This has
effectively eliminated anyone who might exhibit anti-social behaviors. 

17) The people who are newly homeless and have had mainstream experience
can move through the system easier. It is this group that derives the
greatest benefit from the C of C and supports their success data. 

18) This is a relief system and in concert with personal responsibility
legislation eliminates any concept of entitlement. 

20) All agencies that were visited used psychotropic medication as basic
support for all their clients.
	    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^	????!!!!		
21) After the assessment all clients enter into "performance contracts" which
commits them to the treatment plan and time frames.

22) Overnight in 1994 this system was imposed on the existing homeless support

23) There is no long-term commitment to the C of C program.

24) The Department of Homeless Service actively destroyed Community Economic
Development projects.

25) If clients pay for their stay in the hostels they do not have to
participate in the performance contracts. 

26) This is a top-down system; the homeless and frontline staff have no
input into policy, administration or review . 

27) The program overtly discriminates between those who are deemed
deserving and those who are not. 


1) Heightened awareness of value of the dignified and sensitive approaches
that are continuously evolving in the City of Toronto.

2) Our programs and projects are sucessful, long-lasting and sustainable
because they recognize the role of homeless persons, the need for local
solutions and the critical role of skilled frontline staff. 

3) We already have a highly developed and sophisicated systems of a
Continuum of Support and a Community Development Continuum. However we are
by nature reluctant to recognize and celebrate our made-at-home solutions. 

5) We recognize the patience and time required to resolve complex human

6) We recognize the diversity of the homeless population and need for a
rainbow of supports and alternative approaches. 

7) We recognize the need for innovations and social experimentation.

8) Our open0ended systems of services have evolved over time, as opposed
to imposition of a closed system. As such, our services can adapt and
remain relevant to local and personal needs as they change. 

9) Our services and the homeless have in large measure described clients'

10) We also provide services under the component labels (outreach
assessment, transition and long-term housing); however, the underlying
principles and style of delivery are dramatically different. 


In late November of 1997 Robert Yamashita of the Housing Division and
Alice Gorman of the Public Health Division of the City of Toronto had the
opportunity to examine New York City's Continuum of Care Program for the
homeless. The visit was setup through the office of Mayor Hall to the
Deputy Commissioner's office of Lisa Diaz at the Department of Homeless

New York State is the only state that is constitutionally (Article 17) 
obligated to "take care of the needy". Social advocacy organizations
forced the state through the courts to enforce the constitution.  In the
1970's the vast number of armouries were used to house persons
experiencing homelessness.  Mayor Koch during his tenure as the Mayor of
New York city enacted a "consent decree" which guaranteed shelter for all
persons that needed it. He also created the "Homesteading" program to help
rebuild abandoned buildings where the homeless squatted. This program was
squashed by the introduction of the C of C program. 

At the same time the state created a law known as the "winter alarm" with
a 90-day annual limit. Part of this legislation allowed the police to
establish general patrols to pick up homeless persons who were demeaned to
be "a danger to themselves". 

In 1992 Andrew Cuomo Chaired the Commission on homeless, known as the "Way
Home". It recommended the establishment of the "Continuum of Care" (C of
C) program.  Subsequently, as the Director of the national Housing the
Urban Development Agency (HUD), Cuomo established a housing subsidy
program to assist cities in procuring private housing rental stock for
persons participating in the C of C. 

The other important player in the development and evaluation of the C of C
both locally and nationally is Dennis Culhane. He is the academic resource
and policy developer that has been instrumental in the promotion of the
concept of the Continuum of Care. 

In May of 1994 Mayor Guiliani created the Department of Homeless Services
(DHS) to work in co-ordination with an array of clean-up initiatives. The
department was to experiment with the C of C approach and be reviewed
biannually. Guiliani was re-elected in 1997 on his dramatic record of
cleaning up the city. 



     "It recognizes that government has the responsibility to care for the
needy ..."
     "...but it also expects homeless people to take personal responsibility
for their lives."

     " New Yorkers expect drastic reform of New York's program for assisting
homeless people
     ... and that a system replaces temporary solutions with permanent ones".

      " a system that provides emergency assistance to those who truly
need it, assesses their needs within a limited time frame, and refers
them, where appropriate, to services to meet those needs and end their
homelessness. " 


1. Implement a comprehensive eligibility determination process and ensure
that scarce resources will be available to those most in need. 

2. Implement a full continuum of care including outreach, prevention,
shelter diversion, eligibility determination, assessment, emergency
shelter, access to needed services, and access to permanent and supportive

3. Make available flexible client-based services.

4. Ensure short stays in emergency shelters.

5. Develop small, community based programs.

6. Mutual responsibility.

7. Better management.

8. Changes in Shelter Capacity.

9. Improved government colloboration.

10.Strengthen the Chief Executive's (Mayor) responsibility.


1. "The city will undertake a more aggressive outreach effort to homeless
people ...and provide direct placements into treatment programs". 

2. " The primary means of access to the adult shelter system will be
through new emergency assessment shelters. The goal will be to assess the
individual's needs and move him or her through the emergency system within
90 days. Those who refuse a housing placement, or who have sufficient
funds to make their own living arrangements, but refuse to do so, will be
ineligible for continued temporary housing assistance. 

3. "Eligible applicants who are mentally ill, alcohol or substance
abusers, unemployed ... will be referred from assessments centers to
providers of rehabilitative treatment.  The provider will develop a
treatment plan with which the individual is expected to comply as a
condition of continued eligibility. " 

4. "Adults who refuse placements in programs offering rehabilitative
treatment will be referred to a municipal residence facility. These
facilities will have staff to reconnect residents to treatment or other
rehabilitative programs". 

5. Access to housing is critical to ensure that stays in costly emergency
shelters and residential treatment programs are as brief as possible. 

(A important component of the outreach function and the major tool to
criminalize homelessness is Mayor Guiliani's "Quality of Life " by-law. It
is an enforcement plan that gives the police unprecedented power to remove
the homeless from all public spaces.)^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

For the adult C of C program the annual budget of $369 million dollars
serves approximately 15,000 people. In the absence of any public health
care these funds are used for basic health services. Generally the
homeless have very little access to any services and this program attempts
to provide these.

The city staff were reluctant to provide any data or cost figures for the


There are no more visible homeless persons on the streets of New York
city.  Even in semi public spaces in subway tunnels or makeshift shanties
the homeless are no longer visible. The very few that are seen from time
to time shuffle along at a manageable pace, because they are no longer
allowed to stop. 

Private companies have their own agents to keep their strips clean and
free of "vagrants". The public supports the program because there is a
perception of a safer city. However the coersive and often violent nature
of the police and community outreach initiatives (mean sweep) is now
experiencing a public backlash.


We examined the Philadelphia Continuum of Care in 1995 and had a thorough
presentation of the same program in South Bend Indiana at a Homeless
workshop in October 1997. It is apparent that C of C is a national program
in the United States. Although the National McKinney Act of 1985 provided
the enabling legislation for community development, state sponsored
homeless initiatives it is no longer funded and is superseded by the
Personal Responsibilities act of 1997. As in Canada the national
government has devolved responsibilities for the administration of social
programs to the state but the controlling legislation remains a national


City of Toronto's existing  made at home  CONTINUUM OF SUPPORT and Community
Development Continuum need to be recognized, supported, and enhanced.

The City of Toronto, its community agencies, volunteers, institutions and
programs have worked very hard over the past 25 years to create both a
system of support and the framework for community development initiatives.
These programs and projects recognize the need for supports as they are
required and the dignity of homeless persons to develop self help
alternatives. It is imperative to begin identifying both the existing
services and their linkages in order to formalize a Continuum of Support
and a Community Development Continuum. Although these systems are
essentially different in nature, style of delivery and temporal qualities
they nonetheless cover the spectrum of approaches that provide short and
long term solutions for people experiencing homelessness. 


This is a day shelter program in the heart of the financial district. It
is managed by the Trinity Church and serves 106 designated/referred
clients. There are approximately 30% white clients, the rest are black.
The church has their own outreach services and additional church shelters.
All clients are medicated as an essential part of their program. Most of
the clients have trusteed their incomes to the church. 


This is a Brooklyn based project in a former armoury. It is managed by a
local merchants association and serves 70 women with long term pyschiatric
problems. Like many of private sector providers they are in a tall
learning curve. Only now after 2 years is there a sense of a stable
service with appropriate staff. The clients are referred to this service
from city wide assessment centres and come from the region at large. Most
the recreation programs are volunteer delivered. High airport style
security for everyone entering and leaving facility. 


This former psychiatric institution has been converted for several large
Continuum of Care projects.  All services are contracted. 

1. General shelter
This a general shelter for 850 adults over 32 years of age with no
outstanding warrants. There are no young addicts permitted. Shelter
clients must be used to camping. Most (1000 people) are directed to Camp
La Guardia, a former prison 50 miles northwest of the city. Clients choose
this option to get away from the city and the required activity of many
shelters. Camp occupants are bused from the rural shelter and processed
through this centre for all services. 

2. The Assessment Centre
This is one of 3 city wide assessment centres. Private transport companies
move people to vacancies in other shelters. After 4pm public transit
tokens are provided. 

3. Volunteers of America
This is the largest agency in New York state. This projects provides 46
clients with long term mental illness, a 6 month program to prepare them
for housing. These are people who are "hostel resistant"  and require high
levels of psychiatric support.  Low demand facility with no medications
forced on clients. They receive 3 meals a day and have full time access to
5 case managers. 


This is the largest Vets centre in the US. It serves 410 short homeless
vets.  Contract with Veterans Affairs and the city Department for Homeless
services. Successful in finding 300 full time mainstream jobs for clients.
Forty percent return to centre over time. It has a staff of 10 full time
social workers and one family counsellor. The DHS identifies this as an
Employment Program Shelter. 


This is in one of the largest armouries in the USA ( approximately six
football fields in dimension).  Until 1994 it the largest family hostel in
New York City. Presently it is managed by a organization as a primary
assessment centre and a transition hostel for 40 women (all
African-American). They are all medicated and have a 90 day limited on
their residency before moving on to permanent housing. 


This is a satelite project of BRC. It is a former Bowery flophouse that
housed 650 men in very small (4x7) cubicles. Presently it is a 60 bed
shelter and support single men for up to 6 month whilst they reconnected
to housing and jobs. They have an Aids support program, employment search
program, and a day drop-in. The Executive Director is a disenchanted
former Commissioner of the Department of Human Services who understood the
inherent flaws in the Continuum of Care system.  This project is member of
the System however it is trying to bridge the gap between the System and
street realities. The project and its staff recognize that the people who
benefit the most from this approach are the newly homeless who have the
least difficulty in regaining a mainstream existence.  The longer term
homeless with more complex issues reap the least benefit and in most cases
cannot participate. 

E-Quality of Life Campaign

State legislation provides funding and support for advocacy and watch dog
organizations to scrutinize the C of C. This organization was started by
homeless people and is staffed largely with volunteers. This organization
educates the homeless about human rights violations, structures legal
responses, monitors sweeps, and tracks hidden shelters. They are also
affordable housing advocates. Provide support to the very small group of
community agencies willing to question city policies and C of C. 

In their observations many of the community outreach agency have been
pushed to perform and act more violently than the police. The "Eligibility
Verification Review" system has been useful in redefining homelessness to
fit the C of C program and produces successes. The state Govenor Burtaci
has enacted a bill relieving all shelters of their need to conform to
Fire, Building and Health Codes.