New York's Homeless Crisis Just Gets Worse

The current statistics are grim

By Gabe Pressman
|  Monday, Oct 19, 2009  |  Updated 5:16 PM EDT
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New York's Homeless Crisis Just Gets Worse

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A homeless man who did not want to be identified sits next to a shopping cart holding his belongings May in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Homelessness -- it’s the problem that simply doesn’t go away and, tragically, thousands of children are among the victims.

I have been reporting on this issue for more than 40 years. Again and again, mayors and governors have promised to bring reform. Whatever they’ve done, it hasn’t been enough.

The winter is coming and, no matter what Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Mayor Bloomberg’s point woman on the homeless,  promises, the current statistics are grim. Homelessness is at a record high----more than 39,000 people, including 16,500 children, sleeping in our municipal shelters every night. And it’s going to get worse.

Mary Brosnahan, director of the Coalition for the Homeless, tells me  the plight of homeless families is especially sad: “Families are bounced form shelter to shelter every night and the city administration has a complete blind spot on this issue.”

But the situation for homeless single adults is as bad as it is for families.  For these lonely people who roam the streets, sleep on church steps and grates and ride the subways before they desperately seek shelter,  it is horrendous.  Brosnahan wrote in the Daily News today that, on a recent day in the entire shelter system there were only two empty beds left -- for homeless men.

During the present decade, according to the advocates, homelessness has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. And, despite the severe economic crisis,  it doesn’t appear that City Hall has any incentive to make it better for these people who need help so badly.

Brosnahan suggests that the city should speed up plans to build  new permanent housing for those with mental illness and other special needs.  Also, she says the city must reverse the policy of denying homeless New Yorkers access to federal vouchers that would help them acquire  permanent housing.    

No matter who gets elected Mayor November 3rd he needs to address this problem. In editorial opinions, both the Daily News and the Times have warned that the homeless crisis is getting worse and  needs urgent attention.

New York City has a tradition of charity and compassion. In keeping with that tradition, there has to be fundamental change in government policy to help those desperately in need of help.

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