Friday, November 20, 2009

The shelter-in-winter calamity

The Mayor's Winter Shelter Task Force announced on October 23 that they had $500,000 to spend on shelter beds and had succeeded in finding a magnificent 269 slots for the 4 1/2-month chilly period.

In the midst of our Grand Recession, with money tight and the need at its greatest ever for chilly-season safety from the elements, a committee had come through for us, finding means and ways to save homeless people from misery. So we thought.

It's nearly a month later, and its now known that the task force, instead of doing grade A+ work did grade F work. There never were 269 slots; only a paltry few. And that is all we have now as a major storm descends.

Mr. Mayor, please show some grit. Make things happen NOW such that bed space is found. That must include adding new people to the task force and subtracting a few. And a couple good people should be found to determine how things went so very very wrong; they should write a report and its findings should be disseminated. The same level of ineptitude on the winter shelter task force this year must not repeat next year. Frankly, it seems that dependence on homeless-help-industry executives to implement homeless-help government planning is the core mistake.

The lack of beds isn't the only problem. Of the chilly-season beds that are now being used, numbering perhaps sixty, all of them are given to people who have full use of them until the end of March. AND, "insiders" -- that is, homeless friends of the agents that provided them -- are the people who were given the beds, NOT those most in need and who would suffer the most from being left outside in sub-40-degree night temperatures.

Also, those given the beds are in overwhelming number single men, not women or families.

In the past, quite appropriately, there was some "churning" that occured.  A few people were always leaving a shelter [due to having capped out on the maximum of time that was provided in a stay; or left to visit family or sleep at a friend's house for a night, e.g] to be replaced by others needing a shelter.  Now, with space so very very tight, and no 'stay cap,' homeless people will NOT be visiting their familes or staying at a friend's house.  They will stay in place at any shelter they're at for the full span of time they have.  Thus, while in the past, misery was shared by the homeless community, NOW some people will be warm and dry all winter, while others, who would have been the most capable to stay warm on the streets, will be cosy for the full of winter.

Could the Winter Shelter Task Force have done a more incompetent job!?
See also today's Bee article "Sacramento area falls short on winter beds for homeless."

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Blogger el cielo delante said...

Being homeless has to be really hard indeed. I recently interviewed a New York City homeless who shared some of his thoughts on homelessness and on how society treats homeless people. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

A. Toral

November 20, 2009 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Armstrong said...

Thanks, Almu, for the link to your story [with audio!], "Thoughts on Homelessness" at the CUNY blogsite Interactive Journalism.

November 21, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

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