Editor’s note: This article was originally published by

From the Square: New York City must strengthen efforts against homelessness

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by The Washington Square News. It has been reprinted with permission as a part of an ongoing ...

Mar 1, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Friday that his administration will transfer over 400 children from two city-owned homeless shelters that have been continuously cited for inadequate living conditions over the past decade. De Blasio and his administrators said the children and their families had begun to move from the Catherine Street shelter in Lower Manhattan and the Auburn Family Residence in Brooklyn and would ideally be placed in subsidized permanent housing or satisfactory temporary housing. City inspectors reported both shelters for numerous health and safety violations including — but not limited to — lead exposure, mold, insufficient heat, vermin and the presence of sexual predators. The transfer is part of an effort to improve services for the growing population of homeless children in the city.
While removing the 400 children from the Catherine Street shelter and the Auburn Family Residence represents a movement in the right direction, there are still over 22,000 homeless children that remain in New York City shelters. The New York City Department of Homeless Services estimates that over 52,000 people live in homeless shelters as of Feb. 21. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the figurerepresents a 71-percent increase from when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed office in 2002. The number of homeless youth staying in city shelters is the highest it has been since 1983, with over 22,625 children seeking nightly refuge in shelters.
The city government has a moral obligation to provide safe, decent and appropriate shelter for its homeless population. De Blasio’s recent announcement is a strong step toward fulfilling this, yet there are many more steps to be taken. More emphasis should be placed on preventing homelessness, rather than simply managing it. The United to End Homelessness Coalition has produced a manifesto of proposed policy initiatives which de Blasio should look over. Providing an attorney for low-income tenants facing eviction could save New York State $67 million dollars in shelter costs. A South Bronx pilot program has already saved the city more than $700,000. Clearly, there are both economic and moral incentives at play here.
The focus on providing a safe haven for homeless families is crucial to the rehabilitation of the city’s homelessness programs. Given that around one-third of the nation’s homeless live with untreated mental illness, the safety of vulnerable populations in shelters should be top priority. Several incidents in the two recently closed shelters highlight the dangers of housing children with the homeless population at large. These include multiple hostage situations, as well as violent and sexual assaults on children. By providing safer shelters, de Blasio is giving the homeless the security they need to move forward in their lives.
Originally posted here in WSN on Feb. 26, 2014 by the WSN editorial board. Email them at
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