The problem of Homelessness in NYC is one of those topics that makes everybody point the finger of blame at somebody else, like the famous Thomas Nast cartoon of the Boss Tweed era,– “Who Stole the People’s Money?”– which shows a circle of local bigwigs each pointing their finger of blame at the next one.

Everyone seems to agree that the real major problem of NYC Homelessness started back a long time ago when the State of New York began closing big State Mental Hospitals and dumping mentally ill people into “SRO’s” , mostly in NYC, and a lot for instance on the liberal Upper West Side, where it was promised all sorts of “services” would be provided etc. etc.

Soon we had the spectacle of all these “shopping bag ladies” out on the streets with their belongings in bags, usually muttering to themselves. They joined the ranks of “Bowery Bums” and the drifters who floated into NY for welfare handouts and severe addiction problems who ended sleeping wherever they could for the night.

Mayor Dinkins founded a Homeless Bureau which of course started off setting up corruptly run shelters, such as the notorious Bellevue one in Manhattan ( no connection to the Hospital, just proximity) where the food was provided by Mob owned companies at inflated prices and drug dealers used them as havens, and all sorts of other abuses. The Huge shelter on Ward’s Island got into the news where one Halloween, some of their more psycho residents lay in wait that night and killed and beheaded men who were coming back onto the Island for shelter ,…

One of the first acts of Mayor Giuliani was to shake up the shelter system, starting with firing the totally incompetent politcal appointee who ran the big Bellevue shelter and firing many of the minority group “social workers”, whose actually national status was often in doubt ( the director at Bellevue, who was being sued by a disgruntled Vietnam vet who had been mangled by the system, fled back to her native Haiti– insiders said ” she’ll be back soon under a different name.” Thus is Life in the big city.

Mayor Bloomberg took a rather laissez faire attitude towards the Homeless; it was not an isssue that aroused much publicity or any onus for him– he was more interested in policies of gentrification that would , of course, help spur the later crisis.

The Commissioner of Homless Services recently resigned by but was reassigned by the ever left-footed and bungling Mayor DeBlasio, who has been flailing around with the problem and announcing how well all is going –while it doesn’t look that way to most observers.

Says the NY expose publication “The Gothamist”: ( Quoting DeBlasio):

“We thought it was time to step back and look at the structures that are 20 years old.” The mayor added that the city is facing “a different kind of homelessness

[that is] more and more about economic reality.”
Taylor’s resignation comes three months after the abrupt resignation of deputy mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a widely respected and experienced progressive who had overseen the DHS and other social service agencies. Her resignation came at the peak of a summer-long tabloid assault against de Blasio over the city’s homeless crisis, which the mayor initially downplayed.

The number of people in DHS shelters, most of them families and children, has risen to more than 57,000 [pdf] from about 35,000 eight years ago (and down from a peak of 59,000 over the summer). It’s difficult to accurately count the number of homeless living on the streets (or distinguish them from panhandlers who have places to stay), but the mayor estimates it’s somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000. These numbers also fluctuate with the seasons (or what we used to call seasons).”

——- – –

Well, another REAL season is on us called WINTER, and after a mild start temps are now plunging back downwards. So DeBlasio has ordered the police to force people sleeping in public places to go to shelters when it fall belows freezing, –shelters where they usually refuse to go because the shelters are so dangerous, and ridden with lice and vermin.

There was a lawsuit won by a homeless woman back when Koch was mayor saying she could sleep out of the street if she wanted to. As I remember, she got her way but came to a bad end eventually. Nobody knows what is going to happen this time, or within the City’s own strange world of politics and labyrinthine government bureaucracy.

Photo of homeless man by Hernan Hernandez, Flickr