Harrison Kanik 10/12/2017Public Policy Public Policy Memo#1: The Issue of HomelessnessBackground:The rising rate of homelessness in our society is an ever-increasing social problem that has lead to greater health risks and lower levels of education in both adult and youth alike.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s homeless policy which needs to be seriously revised. His current policies are causing more harm than good and in the past year numbers have jumped to 60,000 people, a third of them children, who live in shelters or on the street. Some question how his programs have been managed, his slowness in identifying the growing crisis and his capacity to get support from those at other levels of government. A massive overhaul is required if improvement is to be seen by the end of the mayor’s term.History and Context of the Current Policy:The history of homeless people in NYC goes back a long time, starting with the Great Depression. Hoovervilles (the nickname for shanty towns during the Great Depression) were one of the only places the poor and homeless could live during that time of severe economic downturn. After that era ended, the Hoovervilles disappeared but today increasing rents, an ever-higher cost of living, and insufficient social services for the mentally disabled, elderly, sick and addicted are creating the same social and economic conditions that contributed to the problems of the Great Depression. Modern homelessness first appeared in the late 1970s.
At that time, thousands of homeless people in NYC ended up living on the streets, and were injured or lost their lives due to the harsh conditions. One example of this occurred in 1980 when an explosion took the lives of homeless in the streets nearby (Jeantet, 2013). In 1979, Robert Hayes, an attorney, argued that in NYC people had a constitutional right to shelter and he brought a class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the City and State. The case, known as Callahan v. Carey was settled in 1981 and over the past 30 years has played a key role in shaping the various homeless policies that have evolved in New York City. As mentioned above, many of the social and economic conditions that characterized homelessness during the Great Depression are present today. For example, there has been a rise in substance use and addiction, with people using historically familiar substances such as alcohol, crack, cocaine, and marijuana but with the recent appearance of opioids and the resurgence of heroin. These consumables can lead to negative consequences on a person’s well-being, physical health and professional life.
More deaths, illnesses and disabilities stem from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to illicit drug use. Another economic condition present today contributing to homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. The soaring cost of housing in certain areas has led to more homeless living on the streets of the cities like New York. More people living on the street can cause sanitation problems and disturbances of the peace. This leads to reduced economic gain in the immediate area where the homeless gather.
Businesses will lose customers and areas for tourism will become less attractive to tourists. Finally, there is the relationship between mental health and homelessness. Serious mental illnesses makes it difficult for people to live from day to day. They have difficulty with self care and household management. Mental illnesses may also negatively impact interpersonal relationships resulting in the rejection of caregivers, family, and friends who may be the only things keeping that person from homelessness.
As a result, people with mentally illnesses are much more likely to become homeless than the general population (Library Index, 2009). These individuals could pass pass on their weakness to future generations. Their situation does not make them suitable caregivers for children although there are many homeless people who have no choice but to take their families with them. Current policy:As of right now in NYC, Mayor de Blasio currently has had little success in fixing the problem of homelessness. The mayor himself cites “skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages, loss of rent-stabilized housing, unscrupulous landlords, lack of affordable housing, and missing-in-action state and federal “partners.” (Max, 2017) As mentioned earlier, the number of homeless has crossed the 60,000 mark set last October (Post Editorial Board, 2017); to get even more specific the rate is up 40% since last year, these are the highest rates since 2005 (Post Editorial Board, 2017). The 15,000 units for housing and addiction rehabilitation are nowhere near completion; As of right now only about half have been constructed. NYC social services cannot help those who refuse help, such as addicts, and those with mental health issues.
Goals of Public Policy:An aggressive preventative strategy was initially formulated by the de Blasio administration to achieve the original goals of keeping people in their homes and minimizing illegal actions by making resources more readily available. De Blasio also intended to reform the current shelter strategy by creating new hospital/ rehabilitation shelters to help fight with the drug addiction on the streets. Another strategy targeted old rundown hotels to be refurbished into shelters where the homeless could find a safe, warm place to lay down their heads. (de Blasio, 2015). Mayor de Blasio created a new program called “Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams (HOME-STAT) program” has helped “approximately 750 New Yorkers” (de Blasio,2017) transition from the streets into shelters. Apparently, new programs for rental and rehousing assistance have helped more than 57,000 New Yorkers move from shelters to permanent housing or stay out of shelters in the first place.
He is now requiring developers to pay for building any sort of structure including homes thus making them affordable to the homeless. It is apparently the “most progressive Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIX) policy” out there. He is also trying to keep families from becoming homeless by funding free legal programs and making new rental accident ones, thus causing the eviction rate to got down by 24%. de Blasio also signed a brand new law the Criminal Justice Reform Act, a collection of bills that will build a stronger, safer community by reducing arrests and incarceration for low-level crimes. These bills allow officers to issue a civil ticket instead of taking criminal action for around 100,000 low-level, nonviolent offenses every year. This act and the changing of some police policy by making it legal to carry small amounts of the drug has reduced marijuana arrests. He has also created a drug hotline and is working to get a whole 250000+ new social workers proper drug prevention and mental health training.
He has also signed laws to stop working with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on all low level crimes. Policy Failure:In New York there exists a clear lack of stable, affordable housing. Mayor de Blasio’s plans for homelessness and housing are not complementary. His “Turning the Tide” plan proposes to reduce the number of people in shelters by only 2,500 over the next five years, however, Housing NY sets the unheard of goal to create 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026.
Of those 300,000 units, only 4,000 new units will be available for homeless families. It will preserve an additional 6,000 – which in total translates to a meager 3% of the total number of new units. Although some progress has been made in slowing the increase in the sheltered homeless population, the de Blasio administration has, as of now, not been able to reduce it. The current need far outweighs the response to the crisis.Mayor de Blasio designed these policies around the concept of using high tax rates for the rapid collection of money in order to fund these new stretch programs with no predictable outcome. His strategy was to tax small things such as sugar under health rights and acquire grants by promoting the right cause thus allowing him to stay in power and be economically profitable. He implemented these tools In order to acquire more time by stealing things by continuing to make empty promises as the rates keep doubling up to things like 58,702+ people coming into shelters each day.
All of this has lead to huge police failure causing him suggest new radical ideas with no real payoffs in short term where the short term is what we need right now, “This is a commitment to do something different….,” the mayor said when he announced the plan. “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow, and I hope, and I believe it will be steady.” there are other economic factors that matter right now that have been ignored in order of de Blasio in order to keep flailing about trying to fill in where he could not.Actors:Official actors are plentiful within their involvement with the Blasio’s homeless policy. The first of these people would be Mayor de Blasio himself.
He was the one who created the policy to be enacted within this administrations. He also was the first one to present his policy to the public, and media. He not only is not taking action but is also not helping with the policy and instead put lifelong activist Steven Banks officially in charge of homeless policy, which has done very little. Mayor de Blasio also is keeping the public mostly in the dark and very rarely updates the policy which has led to the public losing trust in him. Not only that but state legislators did approve of this plan which mean they must know something about it that we do not. However this could also be the fact that Mr de Blasio over estimated how much they could get done and thus pitch this policy earnestly thus lying to the state about what could be done in NYC. Even though De Blasio’s heart is in the right place by trying to clean up the homeless problem by making the cost of living lower and providing the proper services to help many homeless people to get up off their feet, he still has made a problematic outcome by making too many promises that he did not have the ability or motivation to complete.
To best sum up the the De Blasio’s reign by his future opponent in the 2017 race, state Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, puts it best when he called the homelessness crisis “a bureaucratic failure and a national disgrace that Bill de Blasio personally helped create,” However she was also unable to state her own solution to the problem. Unofficial Actors: Many of the unofficial actors have many of the same decision about what to do. They all seek to improve the current conditions of the homeless. An organization that does such work would be the “Coalition for the Homeless”; a social services organization based in NYC. These people are currently in the process of trying to get the homeless of the streets and into shelters as a temporary solution. It then tries to help them find the help they need.
They list many a fact and advocate heavily to help support these poor people get off the ground and back into the world. The Policy Director, Giselle Routhier, says while she applaud the effort the only way to help the homeless is to reduce shelter(Baker, 2017). Many other say that the mayor and his administration have done so far, along with his new plan, isn’t as nearly enough to make an impactful difference (Baker, 2017).Goals to Change in Current Policy: There are many things to change and if I was an advisor to de Blasio I would suggest that we start by doing something the coalition for the homeless suggests we do and focus on making big strides to create more shelters. This could use those old rundown parts of town then renovating them with something more up to date as many shelters are rundown. This would give more places for the homeless to stay and thus possibly eliminating majority of the sleeping outside problem.
However for the ones who aren’t able to ask for help or refuse to take it against their better judgment or simply not aware, I suggest a push to increase the aggressiveness of our approach. This means is that we would make an attempt to reach out using advertising and positive reinforcement( ex: some warm food to eat, and affordable rehab), in order to make asking for help more enticing. Next I suggest a new plan to help the homeless gain new opportunities to begin again if that means financial planning, cheap homes/ apartments, or education see it through that those who are seeking out help actively can get back on their feet. A majority of this funding can be taken by performing task ask by D.
C in order to get block grants sent to the state and then put that money towards helping the homeless, or pushing more government approved charity drives. One more thing we could do is open more small scall soup kitchen hybrid shelters and ask for volunteers from neighboring school to come do community service there in order to get extra credit thus promoting a growing relationship with the two communities so the children can have a better understanding of the homelessness than the previous generation.Conclusion: This letter contains my personal feelings about the homeless crisis in New York. To keep things simple and honest I believe mayor de Blasio needs to be taken out of office. He has wasted far too many resources in coming up failures and continues to do so.
At the cost of his fellow man in need. HIs homeless policy is absolute trash I hope my policy influence some decisions Sincerely, -Harrison Kanik