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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

HOMELESS IN NY

This morning I decided to listen to the CBS Colorado Progressive Talk AM-760 Radio. Michael Bloomberg, the famous mayor of New York, is sending the homeless a one way ticket to anywhere in the United States to be with their family in order to get them out of the New York homeless shelters. Are the actions of Bloomberg a dangerous microcosm, a way of legitimizing a possible solution for other cities that might take the idea and run with it? What happens if the person doesn’t have family in the US? Will they send them to other countries instead?

Bloomberg says that New York is spending up to $36K on families (for up to 9 months). Couldn’t they use that money and find these individuals jobs? Bloomberg will send families by plane, train or bus with a one way ticket to anywhere in the United States. The money to fund this is tax payer's money. Bloomberg is a billionaire. Doesn’t he have any friends or resources that can hire these people? Is New York City really that strapped?

I understand it is a way to preserve the shelters and save money for the general fund, especially when the population doesn’t like the homeless and they aren’t a voting block.

Years ago, Oregon was doing the same thing by putting the homeless on the AMTRAK train and sending them to Seattle. They found that some of the homeless are mentally ill and on drugs, which would give rise to other problems. But homeless that are women and children need immediate attention and reach.

Homelessness is a societal problem and not just a nuisance. It is a residual of society’s inability to connect with all of its members. Some of the problems of the homeless happen in our own homes but haven’t spilled over into the streets. Many of us are one to two paychecks away from being homeless, especially with the recent losses to pension funds, souring stock portfolios, decreases in home equity, rising college tuition, layoffs and shuttering of many businesses. I won’t even bring up the mental effects of these radical changes . . . headaches, anxiety, anguish, depression, over eating, etc.

Bloomberg says that the general population doesn't like the homeless. He has to defray costs and make draconian cuts to the homeless shelter program because other general fund programs are being cut as well. The New York mayor reports that it is estimated that $36K is spent on each homeless family each year. The average stay of a family in a shelter is now up to about nine months.

To provide them an opportunity to go back to their original homes is a way of getting them out of New York, where everyone knows it is very expensive to live. Some of the questions that crossed my mind were: Why can't they just create jobs for the family with the $36K? Couldn’t he just find a stimulus package for the homeless and assist these families with jobs? Remember Bloomberg being a billionaire has access to barons, movie stars and business owners the rest of the population doesn’t. They can’t get their heads together to help those down on their luck?

This may be great for the family who got stuck in New York or perhaps for the family on the receiving end. But are the families on the receiving end doing any better?

Throughout the country city managers may see Bloomberg’s response as an opportunity to have their homeless to start over again, by sending "them home", to an area that isn't as expensive as their cities? Is this the ultimate "gentrification" project? Is this a way of cleaning up a city?

Are the homeless requesting these cities provide them free passage out of town? Is this a panecea for other cities? Is this the ultimate way of assuring re-election? What is the moral equivalent or shifting responsibility? One of the callers asked if this is another way for the homeless to travel throughout the United States at no charge.

Is this a problem that may snowball to other cities? Is this the real sign of another Great Depression, where people move to an area believed to be full of jobs and opportunity when in reality they were looking for cheap employees? Remember Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath? How many of these people may choose to move to LA or other warmer climates? We all know that the homeless don’t have a large voting block. But where is the outcry from New York's political liberal voices? Aren't we all a paycheck or two from homelessness? Where would we go if we were told "to move back home"? Suppose you are from New York? Let me know what you think . . . HAPPY FRIDAY . . .

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