Michael Bloomberg is one of the richest people in America, with a worth of forty-five billion dollars. After Rudy Giuliani left, Bloomberg had some tough shoes to fill, as Giuliani cleaned up a lot of crime and is considered iconic for his brave response after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists on 9/11. Bloomberg’s tenure as a mayor lasted three terms indicating his success as the mayor of the Big Apple. However, the mayor received a lot of criticism for his dealings with New York City’s homeless people and its impoverished population. According to an article posted by the Wall Street Journal, back in 2013, right after he finished his last term, saw the former mayor defend his stance that he did not fail New York’s homeless population. The mayor in a way bats away the question and focussed on the well documented story of Dasani, an eleven-year-old girl who was living in a homeless shelter. The formerly tipped presidential candidate went on and said that he felt bad and would assure that her situation would be dealt with. Hers may have been, but what about the rest of NYC?
Michael Bloomberg’s official website as mayor of New York City, repeatedly lauds him for his record of fixing poverty and helping the homeless, but this is a farce, as statistics have shown Bloomberg’s policies not only didn’t shorten the rates of the homeless they increased–by 62 percent. Looking at the statistics of his last two years as mayor both in 2012 and in 2013, New York city’s homeless population grew by almost 10,000 people, yet this man still claimed to have done a good job. In fact, when asked about his dealings of the homeless in New York City, Bloomberg stated, “I don’t think there is any administration in any city that has ever done as much to help those in need as we have done in this city” he later continued by comparing the issues of the homeless in New York City to that in other countries, but that is an idiotic argument. It does not matter what happens in other places, Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York and should have had everything at his disposal to make a change, but he only made things worse. Bloomberg will point to the 2007 Advantage Program, which helped afford the first two years of rent for people who moved from shelters to housing, but this was shut down four years later as Bloomberg tried to help the state of New York deal with its multibillion dollar deficit.
Patrick Markee, a writer for the Coalition of the Homeless, lined up the facts one more time and explained what Bloomberg’s tenure left behind for the homeless and the poor: increase it’s population by 69%, one out of every three kids in NYC is raised in poverty, downplay the causes, and distort the truth about the rate of the homeless. Nowadays, three years later, the number of homeless population has gone up. This reinforces the notion that dealing with the homeless is a fragile and difficult issue to solve, but not fixing an issue and claiming you did something tremendous to fix it are two completely different things, yet Bloomberg’s website awards him for work. It could be said that Michael Bloomberg did a lot for the city of New York, but one is for sure he did not decrease the rate of poverty and surely didn’t help the poor, no website can disprove that–because facts don’t lie, Mr. Mayor.
Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, is home to one of the worst homeless crises in America. To make matters worse, for the first time, homeless families outnumber homeless individual adults. Entire families, mothers, fathers, little children are starving day in and day out and having a tough time to find shelter. This is alarming as the number of homeless families have soared by over thirty percent since last year, even though D.C.’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser, is actively trying to combat homelessness. All of this begs the question– Why are more and more families becoming homeless?
The answer to this question is Mayor Bowser’s biggest criticism. Yes, she has spent a substantial amount of money trying to combat homelessness and vows to increase this budget. Additionally, she has loosened regulations on homeless shelter requirements. All of these are important in combating homelessness, but critics of the Mayor blame the increase of homeless families on rising rates of real-estate, government and social failures, such as bad foster care, teenage pregnancy, and poor schooling.
Homelessness is the responsibility of all of us. Those with mental illness, physical or mental handicaps, or simply hardships or misfortune should be supported by those around them. Harriet McDonald in Helping the Homeless Help Themselves puts forward the position that “ We need to expect more from homeless people….” She asserts the notion that “Rather than condemn the homeless to lives on the government dole, let’s demand more of them — and ourselves.” This old school mentality where the homeless simply need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” is antiquated at best and dangerous at worst.
In the majority of the country’s major cities basic resources such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens etc. are simply not enough to meet the rising tide of desperate people. According to sfgate.com “Homelessness in and around big U.S. cities increased 3 percent this year, even as the nation’s overall rate declined 2 percent, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development“. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness “Despite a national decrease in unsheltered homelessness, only 18 states reported decreases in the number of people living in unsheltered locations…” this year. There is still a great way to go in getting those most in need off of the streets and putting the necessary housing measures in place. The report reads, “Transitional housing capacity continued to decrease nationwide with 40 states and D.C. reducing capacity…..utilization of transitional housing was low, with 81.7 percent of beds filled …. the lowest utilization of transitional housing recorded since 2007.”
We fundamentally disagree with the assertion that “… we will never be able to … add enough government-subsidized housing units to shelter everyone forever. Nor should taxpayers be expected to pay forever for people who appear only cursorily unable to make it on their own.” The real truth of the matter is that we must take steps to first providing the basic necessities. Only then, will we as a society be able to lift those out of their misfortune and incorporate them into the larger community as a whole.
McDonald goes at length to place her organization “The Doe Fund” on a pedestal as the ideal model for how to solve the crisis of homelessness. This organization however is not the ideal. It effectively excludes many who may be unable to work due to physical or mental illness or handicaps or even single mothers who have to look after children. Due to the lack of basic resources available to most able-bodied homeless men and women, the odds that they would be willing to take a chance on such an organization is doubtful. Without some form of bedrock beneath them to launch from, “The Doe Fund” represents more confusion than opportunity.
In short, although I can understand the notion that taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the weight of the homeless population, I can reason that in time more expectations should be put upon the homeless to engage and contribute to society. However in order to get to that time and place the homeless must be first given some ground to stand upon so that they can gain the confidence and security to take new opportunities such as “The Doe Fund” when they arise.
When driving or walking around a city, you know the familiar figures: individuals sitting on the ground, holding out the cup; war veterans in wheelchairs covered by colorful blankets on the street corner; men and women pacing along a major road median. While we might recognize these faces again and again, something seems to be missing.
These are all individuals. Where are the homeless families?
Families are a part of the homeless population that is not always seen. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that in 2015, “206,286 people in families with children were homeless on a single night…making up 36 percent of all homeless people counted.”While this number has been in decline, this is still a big deal, especially when you consider that this number includes children who do not have access to consistent meals, hygiene, or education.
A recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle outlines a new city plan to house homeless families, an interesting development in fighting homelessness. The article notes that “There are 1,303 homeless families in San Francisco’s public schools with a total of 2,097 children, more than double the total nine years ago,” and that “Families are fewer, hidden away and easier to ignore.” In response, the city plans to:
- Move the families living in dire conditions to emergency shelters
- Move the families who do have shelter to long-term housing
- Manage one database for information and one entry point for services
While not perfect (the article details potential challenges of the plan), this is still a new, helpful response to eliminating chronic homelessness and making things better for families. When it comes to homelessness, most people forget that people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and ages can be affected. Hopefully San Francisco’s program, which hopes to be in full swing by 2020, can be a success other cities can emulate. After all, helping homeless individuals find their families is just as important as helping families find a home.
It’s hard to imagine that the country that controls so much nuclear firepower and drops so many bombs every day is unwilling to educate its children and house its own people. The op-ed below, by Cynthia Kinney of the Green Party, gives a politician’s point of view about homelessness and the current situation.
Source: America, we have a problem: Homelessness is out of control