Last week, Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the City of New York for failing to provide adequate shelter to homeless single adults. The City’s response was in no way surprising-they blamed the homeless individuals for coming in too late or “refusing” beds. But the reality is not so cut and dry. Many homeless men and women arrive at shelter on time and if there aren’t enough beds at the shelter, they are offered a bus to another shelter. These buses can leave as late as 2:00 AM. Those that do accept the bus are awakened at 6:00 AM and told to return to the original shelter. Even after all of this, there may not be enough beds at other shelters.
According to a recent article in The Indypendent,
“The reality is much more complicated than the neoliberal explanation that the homeless need to show more “personal responsibility.”
The reason why there exists such a high demand on the municipal shelter system is because of a horrendous economy, unemployment, evictions from apartments, and the complete lack of any affordable housing in the city. All of those reasons are set against the backdrop of thousands of vacant property sites around the city and a huge waiting list for placement in public housing even as public housing apartments remain vacant for long periods of time due to “renovations,” as the city claims.
The stakes are even higher as the winter cold approaches, when historically demand for shelter has soared.”
Coalition for the Homeless has been warning the City for months about the increase in demand for shelter. As the winter weather gets colder and colder, the City must immediately rectify the overcrowded conditions and fulfill its legal obligation to provide for these men and women.