Do-nothing politicians (like my opponent) let homelessness reach crisis levels. No more empty talk! I will address it. Here is my comprehensive plan.
New Yorkers feel uneasy and less safe when encountering people sleeping or panhandling in their neighborhoods. The city runs 40 shelters and contracts out to another 600 shelters. Mayor De Blasio wants to add 90 shelters. Most neighborhoods fight this. Let’s do more with the locations we have.
- Keep homeless shelters open around the clock in two 12-hour shifts for single adults and married couples with no children. This would double the housing capability.
- Stagger intake to every six hours. This would add capacity.
- Employ homeless to do laundry,serve food, and do other tasks to supplement the shelter staff. It sends the right message.
- Convert some shelters into non-sleeping locations with a 2-to-3-hour stay time. On bad-weather days, extend the stay time.
- Focus more on mental health staff. Many homeless suffer from mental illness from depression to schizophrenia. Medication could help them function better.
The problem with the shelter system is that one size does not fit all. We need specialization. Our homeless have a wide range of situations, from the temporarily homeless who are employed to those who have psychological problems to younger people with fewer medical problems who are less inclined to remain homeless. We already specialize with shelters for families and by separating single men and women. We must break it down more.
- Split family shelters into three categories: families with kids 12 and under, kids 13 and over, and mixed families with kids in both age groups.
- Singles 18 to 35, 36 to 60, and over 60.
- Married couples.
- Employed because (believe it or not) there are a many who work full-time yet cannot afford apartments.
- Unemployed but able-bodied with skills.
- Unemployed and disabled with skills.
- Unemployed with no skills or limited education.
- Emotionally disturbed treatable with medication or counseling.
- Emotionally disturbed not treatable but not dangerous to themselves or others.
- Those with health problems.
Make specialization more efficient. Use technology to streamline intake. Shelters still have everyone fill out paperwork before being admitted. Speed up the process by using biometric scanners or scan cards that, with a swipe, pull up information. This will help direct homeless clients to the proper shelter and help social workers by having each client’s history at their fingertips.
New York faces an affordable housing crisis. Until we address this, we will continue to spend billions to temporarily house our homeless. Here are ideas to increase our housing supply.
- Review all NYCHA residents. Downgrade to smaller apartments residents whose kids moved out and collect higher rent from those who can afford it.
- Prioritize repairing empty apartments for homeless families.
- Build more prefab micro apartments like 27thSt. in Manhattan (55 units at a cost of about $290,000 per apartment). If we build more units per building, we may reduce cost per unit. As module micro apartments come prebuilt, it will be quicker to put up these buildings.
Using current locations more efficiently, we can increase capacity, save money and house more homeless without resorting to expensive temporary housing in hotels.
Specialization will reduce problems to a manageable level, boost efficiency and enhance social worker effectiveness.
Lastly, let’s encourage religious organizations to handle the homeless. Current city policies impose too many burdensome rules. It denies thousands of homeless people the opportunity to have a wonderful facility with good food, clean dormitories, and compassionate help to those in need of psychological help, education, jobs, or a helping hand.
We should help such noble institutions, not fight them. I have personally seen religious facilities offering a kinder and more beneficial environment than city shelters do. I will promote giving block grants to any institution demonstrating that it has handled homeless situations in a healthy and constructive manner.
It is good public policy to enlist private institutions. We benefit from new ways of thinking.