New York City's homeless population is reaching monster proportions and the city is using emergency powers to open nine new, large shelters for people who have no place to live.
According to a report in today's New York Times, "The homeless population in New York City has jumped sharply over the last year, causing a record number of people to enter the shelter system." In an attempt to cope with the problem, in the past two months alone the city opened five new shelters in the Bronx, two in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn.
This brings the number of homeless shelters across the city to 228, up from 211 last June.
Some 43,731 homeless people are living in New York's shelter system right now, including 18,256 children. The figure represents a whopping 18% increase from a year ago. It is the largest number of people ever living in city shelters and does not represent the total homeless population in New York because many people avoid shelters by staying with relatives or friends, or by living on the street.
The crisis erupted because the Bloomberg administration recently ended rent subsidies, which allowed many people who are now homeless to stay in their apartments.
"When they did that, we told City Council and the mayor it was a stupid budget move," one social worker, who also volunteers with organizations work with the homeless, tells me. She cannot be quoted by name because, as a city employee, she's not authorized to speak with reporters.
She is angry about what is happening, adding, "I have clients where the city was paying $1,800 a month in subsidies but the new shelter space (in Manhattan) costs city hall $3,300 a month per apartment" in buildings leased from private owners by the city to use as shelters.
With Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, the Republican Party is ensuring that more people will end up homeless if the ticket is elected.
As we noted on Thursday, the Romney-Ryan budget – which Romney now owns even though he was a reluctant supporter of it during the GOP primaries, and is now trying to distance himself from his own endorsement – would strip retirees of Medicare, the very net that keeps most of them from falling into the abyss of abject poverty and homelessness. Moreover, by proposing massive cuts to Medicaid, fooid assistance and other programs that help poor people get through the day, Romney-Ryan will add massively to the homeless problem across the country. One city after another will confront the same crisis New York is coping with right now.
For Pres. Obama, Democrats generally and progressive ideas more broadly, by choosing Ryan, Romney has made the campaign into a battle over how government should help its citizens. As David Corn writes at Molther Jones today, by picking Ryan "whose name is synonymous with the GOP's cut-taxes-for-the-rich and slash-programs-for-the-middle-class-and-the-poor, Romney has helped Obama … shape the election not as a referendum on the sluggish economy but as a sharp clash between opposing sets of values and programs for the future."
In other words, November 2012 will see if the American people maintain their heritage and tradition of helping those less fortunate, or will the country turn its back on the helpless, hapless and homeless.
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My next book is about being homeless. When published, I will donate a percentage of royalties to homeless organizations.