This week the New York Post published perhaps one of the most bizarre opinion pieces about NYC homelessness ever written. The op-ed makes the wacky claim that New York City has made “huge strides on homelessness,” despite the all-time record high number of homeless children and adults crowding the shelter system.
Yesterday’s NY Post op-ed was written by George McDonald, who is now vying to be the Republican candidate for mayor. While acknowledging that there are 20,000 homeless children sleeping each night in municipal shelters, McDonald dismisses the “handwringing over such statistics,” as if those all-time record numbers don’t represent real children suffering the harmful impacts of homelessness. We found it peculiar that McDonald leads with fact that a record 20,000 girls and boys are homeless, but the solution he offers up would do next-to-nothing to help those kids.
McDonald’s op-ed states that in recent history, NYC has made “huge strides on homelessness.” Well, there’s one straightforward answer to that off-the-wall claim:
As the City’s own data shows, the number of homeless New Yorkers bedding down each night in municipal shelters has increased an astounding 57 percent since Bloomberg took office. And in the last decade alone, the number of homeless families in the shelter system has grown by more than two-thirds.
If this is what it means to make “huge strides on homelessness,” we’d sure hate to see what failure looks like.
As we’ve noted many times, one of the major causes of the current, and worsening, crisis is the fact that Mayor Bloomberg’s elimination of all housing assistance to help homeless New Yorkers move from shelter to permanent housing – a stark reversal from his predecessors.
But McDonald chooses to ignore this glaring reality. Instead, he distorts the 1992 findings of the New York City Commission on the Homeless – very peculiar since McDonald’s op-ed states that he was a member of that very commission!
In fact, the NYC Commission stated in its final report that the number one goal “for a new policy to address homelessness” ought to be:
“All levels of government must be engaged in the expansion of permanent housing options. While many of those who are homeless require “transitional” services, all need affordable housing. Moreover, transitional and permanent housing are mutually dependent; neither can succeed without the other.”
That conclusion was reached two decades ago. Policy experts, advocates, front-line service providers, and homeless people themselves knew what works to reduce NYC’s homeless population: Permanent, affordable housing for homeless kids and families, and permanent supportive housing for homeless people living with mental illness and other special needs.
Of course we agree and have spent the last 20-plus years advocating for the much-needed increase in supportive housing in NYC touted in this piece. But the current crisis is driven largely by an explosion in the family population. They need decent housing they can afford – not on-site social services.
Investing in long-term housing assistance for homeless families with vulnerable children. THAT is how NYC can indeed make “huge strides on homelessness” – not by ignoring reality and misinforming the public.