New York's Leaders Take A Pass On Helping Homeless Shelter Children
When I was a little boy we played a game in summer camp called "hot potato." Throughout New York kids at Jewish summer camps and Catholic after school programs spent their afternoons in a circle tossing a bean bag to the person next to them frantically, not wanting to be the loser left holding the bag when the music stopped.
Today, New York's children don't just play hot potato - many of them are the hot potato, in a twisted game played by New York's two chief executives, where being caught financially responsible for the welfare of small indigent children apparently makes you a fiscal loser.
Both Mayor Bloomberg's office and Gov. Cuomo's office have cut programs which help homeless families leave the shelter system for a more secure and dignified life as the number of homeless families in New York swells to record numbers. Gov. Cuomo lost 27 million dollars in federal matching funds for New York by cutting a housing program, and a program that gave homeless families priority for affordable housing was cut by Mayor Bloomberg.
The New York Times editorial page identified this as part of a growing crisis just a few days after the sparkling new Barclays entertainment arena opened in Brooklyn to much fanfare.
In the case of Barclays, the city somehow found the money to contribute to its infrastructure based on the mere hope it will get paid back someday in increased tax revenue from new job creation and greater tourism in the area.
When it comes to bridging homeless families into their own housing, the Mayor claims the city cannot afford to contribute, even though the investment in stemming the tide of generational poverty is much less risky and yields secure dividends for our city's finances in a greater overall economy.
As an organization whose mission is to make sure there is a bed for every homeless child, we at Shelter of Peace know that for homeless teens and young adults living outside the shelter system, an overcrowded shelter system which people never leave discourages vulnerable young people from seeking out care through the safe, official channels that could improve their lives. If we're serious about keeping kids off the streets, away from criminal activity and turning to survival sex, we need to make sure our city's homeless shelters are transitional housing and not an endpoint.
With his 30 year PlaNYC, saving surplus revenue during boom times, and his bold choice to ban supersized sugary beverages from the marketplace, Mayor Bloomberg has proven he can use foresight to make strategic choices that will help New Yorkers in the long-term. It is time for him to make those types of choices to benefit homeless New York families, and stop playing games with the lives of children.