We definitely have a homelessness problem in New York City.
According to The Coalition for the Homeless, in June of 2015 there were 58,761 homeless people sleeping in the NYC municipal shelter system each night.
Even more heartbreaking is that 40% of those sleeping in the shelter system are children. We can't calibrate how many people in NYC are homeless and don't sleep in the shelter system. There's no way to count them, but we know it's bad.
Last week, Governor Cuomo teamed up with the State of New York and issued an executive order, aiming to protect the homeless during weather with temperatures that dropped below 32 degrees.
Mayor de Bill de Blasio made promises too. He promised last month that his outreach program would canvas every block, every day, in a seven mile stretch, trying to persuade people on the streets to seek shelter.
According to ABC, NYC's homeless made it clear in interviews that it's going to take more than these outreach programs to bring them in from the cold.
Not one of the nearly three dozen homeless people interviewed said they'd been approached by outreach workers from de Blasio's program, nor forcibly brought inside as Cuomo's executive order demanded.
So what gives?
Apparently, de Blasio's outreach program hasn't gotten after it yet. A city spokeswoman said de Blasio's program wouldn't be fully operational until sometime in March.
We think it's great they're trying, but we do have to point out the glaring error with that timeline: homeless people need to come inside much more in January and February than they do in March.
Every homeless person interviewed about Cuomo's executive order said they'd prefer to take their chances on the street than rely on a shelter system they said was filthy, violent, vermin-infested, and infiltrated by mental illness and addiction.
"I haven't talked to any cops, or social workers, or anybody. And the shelters here are horrible. I feel safer on the street," said 30-year-old John Gallup.
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Obviously, there's a cost of living problem in NYC. This is evidenced by the 37% increase that's been recorded in the homeless population since 2009.
There is hope. Last year, the city officials said outreach workers persuaded 97 homeless people into shelters on one especially cold night, and 62 the next night.
The city's long-running Code Blue program requires workers to check the streets and aid people into shelters when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
As for the sanity and safety of the shelters? Comptroller Scott Stringer said he was "horrified," after finding 18,000 health or safety violations, including vermin infestation, broken smoke detectors, and peeling lead paint at the city's 500 shelters.
Worse, reports of violence against shelter staff and residents have increased by 55% from 504 incidents to 783 incidents, in the years between 2012 and 2015.
De Blasio knows the shelters are a problem.
"For decades our shelters have not been safe enough or clean enough, and that's just not acceptable," de Blasio said.
Cuomo and de Blasio, we recognize your hearts are in a good place and your efforts are not going unnoticed. However, it seems to us like efforts should be placed on improving shelters before we deploy resources to force people into them.
Check out How Cuomo Will Help Get Homeless Off the NYC Streets During This Winter.[via ABC]