Homeless, But Not Eligible for Shelter?

Last night, the Bloomberg administration announced it would begin implementing an eligibility procedure for homeless single adults trying to enter shelter — an onerous process that would effectively deny shelter to a great number of homeless people in need. The proposed new rules for homeless single adults largely copy the shelter system’s current disastrous policy of turning away record numbers of homeless families at the shelter door.

But the impact of the new rules for homeless individuals is likely to be even worse. Homeless single adults are more likely to suffer from mental illness and other health problems, and as a result, are less able to navigate the city’s inefficient and bureaucratic shelter rules, and are more likely to end up on street when turned away by the City. As if to illustrate this risk perfectly, the rules are crafted in a way that allows individuals to be found ineligible for a myriad of bureaucratic reasons, including not providing proper documentation, refusing a psychiatric evaluation, or not being eligible for safety net assistance.

Plain and simple, the Bloomberg administration’s dangerous and inhumane new rules will result in more people sleeping on the streets, in the subway system and in other public spaces — just as winter is approaching.

A joint statement by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Annabel Palma states:

This policy is an irresponsible ‘no room at the inn’ approach that does nothing to address the record number of people experiencing homelessness in New York City as winter approaches…. The recession has had a real effect on unemployment and on people’s ability to stay in their homes — our charge is to find ways to help these people — not to send them into the streets with nowhere to turn to for help.

Last night’s announcement is an admission of failure. Mayor Bloomberg has failed to move homeless families and individuals out of the shelter system and into stable housing, and failed to prevent thousands of New Yorkers from becoming homeless. The result is record homelessness and a shelter system at the breaking point.

Instead of dealing with the real problem – access to affordable housing – the mayor is instead leaving homeless New Yorkers out in the cold.

At any time, the City could use available resources to provide homeless families and individuals with permanent affordable housing assistance. Yet, tragically for the homeless and the entire City of New York, the administration has chosen not only to deny the homeless access to affordable housing, but now to deny them shelter too.

Leave a Reply