Why doesn’t Albany start the ball rolling on eliminating the “right to shelter” to anyone that seeks it? If this sounds cold-hearted, consider this: An increasing number of people from outside the City of New York have been seeking shelter paid for by NYC taxpayers (us)!
While lifelong NYC residents are fleeing in droves due to rising housing costs, people who can’t afford to live in less costly areas are showing up on our doorstep to sign up for NYC services. Department of Homeless Services statistics reveal that in FY2014, 24% more families with children from outside the city applied for services than they had in FY2013. FY2015 is on track to see an additional 29% increase over FY2014. For families without children, there was a 55% increase between FY 2013 and FY2014 and a 64% increase thus far during FY2015. This is just insane.
Other states have a residency requirement in order to receive these services, but New York State does not, as per court decisions, due to the vague way our state’s constitution is worded. Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi responded to a question about this in a curious way at the December 2014 Juniper Park Civic Association meeting. He was asked why he doesn’t start working on getting the constitution changed, and he replied that it was a 3-year long process (so what?) and that it might dissuade the homeless people that are sleeping on the streets from seeking emergency shelter during bad weather if they had to somehow prove their residency. However, the city has a homeless unit dedicated to finding people sleeping on the streets and persuading them to seek shelter. We also now have a NYC ID program which was supposed to specifically target the homeless population and the otherwise undocumented. There really is no excuse at this point for not enacting a residency requirement. I certainly can’t foresee the Republican Senate majority opposing this, so Andy Hevesi and other members with shelter issues in their districts should be able to persuade the Assembly to support it as well.
This problem can be largely fixed via action by the state legislature combined with a referendum. But it needs to be started by someone. Why not our own state reps, Assembly Members Andy Hevesi, Mike Miller, Cathy Nolan, Marge Markey and Senator Joe Addabbo? In addition to talking with the DHS and holding hearings about homelessness, it’s time for some real action up in Albany to protect the interests of the people who are forced to pay for all this. If they start working on this now, maybe there won’t be a need for a shelter on Cooper Avenue in the future.