In a recent editorial, the New York Daily News defended Mayor Bloomberg’s failed homeless policies — but had to ignore the facts to do so.
Because we at Coalition for the Homeless subscribe to the old-fashioned notion that facts should inform public policy, we thought it would be helpful to review some of the claims made by the Daily News editorial board:
1. The editorial dismissed the importance of the impending loss of the Open Door drop-in center, New York City’s largest drop-in center serving street homeless people. Interestingly, it was the Daily News itself that broke the story that there will be no replacement for the center, something that City officials had promised last spring. Instead, the editorial dismisses the Open Door as “just a room filled with folding chairs where street people sleep.”
In fact, the Open Door, which is located adjacent to the Port Authority bus terminal in midtown Manhattan, serves some 200 homeless people each day and provides overnight accommodations to 90 homeless people — representing one third of all street homeless people served by drop-in centers citywide. After the many earlier cutbacks to drop-in centers, particularly in Manhattan, concerned people are worried about what will happen to the vulnerable individuals served by the Open Door — especially given that the shelter system is bursting at the seams. The fear is that many will end up back on the streets.
2. The Daily News ed board claims that it is “not city policy” that municipal shelters — including those directly operated by the City — have referred thousands of homeless adults to illegal, unsafe boarding houses.
Again, the Daily News itself has reported on shelter referrals to some of these very illegal dwellings — including a condemned building in Brooklyn where municipal shelters placed dozens of homeless men, who were lucky to escape when one of the home’s walls partially collapsed.
Moreover, in a letter from NYC Department of Homeless Services commissioner Robert Hess, sent last year to the New York City Council after an oversight hearing on referrals to illegal dwellings, Hess admitted that municipal shelters had sent homeless people to illegal boarding houses later ordered vacated by other City agencies. In fact, in the space of only one year, City shelters sent an incredible 340 homeless adults to only 14 vacated dwellings, largely one-and-two-family homes.
3. Finally, the Daily News editorial decries the suggestion — made by New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and others — that the City should restore funding for some 3,000 poor families who’ve had Federal housing vouchers rescinded.
While the editorial claims that such a move would cost the City more money, in fact exactly the opposite is true. Indeed, given that it costs $38,000 per year to shelter a homeless family, by cutting off 3,000 poor families from housing assistance the City risks spending as much as $114 million to provide shelter to these families — far more than the estimated $29 miillion it would take to restore funding for the vouchers.
So, to review: The Daily News editorial not only gets the facts wrong on some key elements of City homeless policy — it also essentially advocates for more homeless people sleeping rough on the streets, more illegal and unsafe boarding houses, more poor families made homeless, and more taxpayer money spent on emergency shelter. Not bad for a 182-word editorial!