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[Commentary] © 2001 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080

Homelessness Stories, Oct-Dec/2001


12/31/2001  1 homelessness story -

12/29/2001  3 homelessness letters to editor -
12/28/2001  1 homelessness story - 12/27/2001  2 homelessness stories -
  1. A quiet line at sunrise speaks of growing need - Pantries have less food for more people - Many at the pantries are taking [charity] for the first time, by Alan Feuer, NYT, A16.
    ...The line outside the Bronx Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1695 Washington Ave. starts forming just after sunrise, about 7:15, most mornings. The ragged men and women shuffle up to the wooden doors as if from nowhere, dressed in thrift-store parkas and old wool caps.... It is still too early for conversation and the few words exchanged are mostly vague grumblings about lost jobs and the hard December cold.
    An entire system exists to feed these people, from the warehouse at the Hunts Point Produce Market, where donated food is shipped out in 18-wheelers every day, to the food pantries that distribute boxes of raisins and cans of pink Atlantic salmon. But with donations sinking in the wake of 9/11, and the need for food increasing, the system is in danger of collapse.
    Perhaps 1½ million New Yorkers now rely on food pantries, experts on hunger say, and since 9/11, more than 60% of them are taking donations for the first time....

  2. Homelessness in New York, editorial, NYT, A18.
    Mayor-Elect Michael Bloomberg faces all sorts of daunting challenges when he takes office in NYC next week. High on the list are the twin problems of hunger and homelessness that have taxed soup kitchens to the limit and jammed the city's homeless shelters with record numbers of men, women and children. ...The problem of what to do for the very neediest has bedeviled mayors for the last two decades. We hope Mr. Bloomberg can bring a new energy and determination to the issue.
    [After all, he's one of the richest men in the world.]
    The crowds at the soup kitchens and homeless shelters were already growing before 9/11, [which] cost the city nearly 80,000 mainly low income jobs in October alone.
    Many of those thrown out of work are still receiving unemployment benefits or emergency disaster aid. But the state has nonetheless reported that welfare caseloads grew between Sept. and Oct. After six years of dramatic reductions, New York may be facing the start of a new surge in the welfare population.
    [And just when will they be prepared to drop the subjunctive?]
    Local food pantries are reporting a startling increase in the number of New Yorkers who seem to be putting what money they have toward the rent [if they've still got an apt.!] and turning to charitable organizations to feed their families. People who somehow found ways to support themselves in the booming 90's have begun to reappear on the streets and subways.
    As of the Nov. census, the city's homeless shelters house about 30,000 men, women and children. Homeless-rights lawyers describe this as the largest number since the city began keeping records in the early 1980's.
    The state provides a welfare family of three with a rent subsidy of just $286 a month - far short of the nearly $700 it would cost that same family to find a two-bedroom apartment in a low-income neighborhood. However, that [$700x12= $8400] is still far less than the $36,000 a year it costs to house a family in a hotel-style shelter.
    Mr. Bloomberg should begin his administration by vowing to ensure that every New Yorker who is eligible for federally funded food programs is enrolled to get help as soon as possible. Beyond that, he should work with Albany to redirect the state's homeless dollars toward housing subsidies. Common sense calls for a policy that keeps as many people as possible in their own homes instead of driving them into homeless shelters that cost the city and state a fortune.
    [We have a better idea. Drop the bandaids and set up a citywide work-sharing program. There's plenty of work in NYC and tons of money, but they're all bunched up on a very few people, like the Mayor-Elect himself, for example, dba the founder of Bloomberg News. How could this be done? Start by enforcing the old 40-hour workweek. Tax every business and individual that works overtime, and give them a complete exemption for setting up training and hiring in overtime-targeted skills. Use the tax revenues to approximate the training and hiring the businesses and individuals paying the tax should be doing. It's time the private sector cleaned up its own mess. And step one involves accepting the technological imperative to share the vanishing work and cut the outdated crap about "working hard (= long hours) to get ahead." There just isn't enough human work out there for our huge human populations in the Third Millennium now we're introducing robotization like gangbusters. If we want an economic future without chronic recession, we'll need strong domestic markets. And if we want strong markets, we'll have to start timesizing and stop downsizing. There's no alternative except militarization, if you call that an alternative in the Atomic Age.]

12/24/2001  1 homelessness story - 12/21/2001  1 homelessness debate and 2 stories -
  1. A real home for the homeless, letters to the editor, NYT, A26....

  2. Report: Most homeless rejected, by Mac Daniel, BG, B11.
    The majority of homeless mothers and their children seeking temporary shelter in Massachusetts are turned away by the state, according to a survey by homeless advocates released yesterday. The Mass. Coalition for the Homeless report found that 82% of families on the street were...turned away from overcrowded shelters after failing to meet state requirements [or] providing the necessary documentation..\.. The report also found that only a third of families were approved and placed in shelters on the day they applied....
    As Boston's homeless population continues to grow, spurred on by the ongoing affordable housing crisis, a weakened economy, and a state budget thin on funds for social service programs, the state is...facing a huge shortage of shelter beds. More than 300 families are now living in hotel or motel rooms, according to..\..Dept. of Transitional Assistance spokesman Dick Powers....

  3. A life recalled - Relatives and longtime friends remember the talents and dreams of homeless man, by David Arnold, BG, B1.
    ...He was once a towheaded boy, a track star, a top student, a voracious reader, a dexterous guitar player, a songwriter, a poet, a hopeless romantic, and a man who more than once gave up his own coat to someone who needed it more. But those who knew him say he was also haunted by demons - that he had not lived up to a father's expectations, that he had lost forever the love of a girl.... Occasionally he agreed to enter a treatment center. But in the end, he chose to fight his demons with drink....
    What he was doing on the tracks remains a mystery..\..
    [Inviting an end?]
    At 7:20 pm last Friday, [the man] who carried no identification, was struck and killed in South Boston by a commuter train.... On Tuesday, police were finally able to identify the victim using fingerprint records. He was Mark Harold Henderson, 40..\.. The last time [his] mother [from Atlanta] tried to call [him] was one week ago, coincidentally just an hour or two before the homeless man would die....
    "With your head down in a driving rain and a train being pushed from the locomotive in the back, you'd be surprised how easy it is to be hit," said Peter Pasciucco, an MBTA police superintendent....
    ["There but for the grace of God go I."]
    This year, trains in Greater Boston have killed four homeless people, who frequently slip through cuts in chain-link fences to use the tracks as shortcuts....

12/18/2001  1 homelessness story - 12/14/2001  1 homelessness story - 12/11/2001  1 homelessness story - 12/01/2001  1 homelessness story - 11/22/2001  1 homelessness story - 11/20/2001  1 homelessness story - 11/18/2001  3 weekend homelessness stories -
  1. Murder shatters a street 'family' - 'They killed the purest thing' - Iin search of 'family,' she found death instead, by Burge & Stockman, Boston Globe, front page.
    [Photo captions -]

  2. Freeks and geeks - Harvard Square's 'Pit' under scrutiny after killing - After young woman's murder, Cambridge officials to meet on Pit - 'When I saw you were a reporter, I seriously wanted to hit you. All of a sudden, you want to know what's going on in our lives because there was a murder. You didn't care five years ago that people here were homeless.' Daher, a Pit regular, 20, from Waltham, who declined to give her last name, by Dorie Clark, BG, City 17.
    A teenage girl panhandles inside the Harvard Square MBTA [subway] station while a friend looks on. The nearby "Pit" attracts a shifting crowd of area youth. [= photo caption]
    ...When the MBTA redesigned the Harvard Square station in the early 1980s and created "the Pit" - a depressed brick semicircle above the T stop on Mass Avenue - the kids adopted it. In the nearly 20 years since, a shifting pack of youth, roughly ages 14-25, has gathered there every day, with about 30 "regulars" at any given time.... Regulars describe the Pit as an idyllic, understanding place, but...two weeks ago, Io Nachtwey, a 22-year-old woman who hung out in the Pit and was known as Rook, was found viciously murdered, her body floating in the Charles River. Prosecutors, who have charged four men with murder and two women as accessories, say the killing resulted from the men's [blaming Rook for a] failed attempt to recruit homeless youths for a gang....

  3. Motel blues, editorial, BG, E6.
    The soft economy offers little. But it loosens the real estate market slightly, creating a chance to move homeless families into homes. [Massachusetts] state officials should help this happen.
    The hot economy drove rents beyond the reach of many families. Homeless shelters began to overflow.
    [Now the bizarre twist -]
    So in August 1999, the state's Dept. of Transitional Assistance started putting homeless families into motels. For example, 33 families, including 90 children, have been housed since the summer at the Red Roof Inn in Southborough. They are isolated on a highway, with no cooking facilities, no public transportation, and far from support services....
    This is a huge defeat. By 1995, the state had eliminated the need to put homeless families in motels. Now the numbers are climbing. Last November, 71 families were in motels. And last year, the state spent $3.7m on motel rooms. This month, over 300 families are in motels.
    Two programs could help....
    1. ...Place homeless families in "scattered-site" units temporarily...a single apartment..\..instead of shelters where many families stay.... Using..\..scattered site units...is much faster than trying to finance and build more shelters.
    2. ...The rolling stock model in [which] a nonprofit agency uses its resources and clout to find apartments and negotiate with landlords. The nonprofit finds families that are ready to live independently, places them in the apartments, and provides the support services and initial rent money that families need to become stable tenants....
    By wrapping families in resources so they can succeed, these programs could ensure that public dollars are well spent. But this would only be a partial fix. Massachusetts still needs a master plan for housing poor families.
    [No, Massachusetts, and the nation, need a master plan to make it much easier to gain marketable skills and earn a good living, for example, Timesizing. We can focus on the long list of details forever - housing, food, transportation, childcare, health insurance,... - without solving the fundamental issue. By perpetuating an antique, pre-automation 40-hour workweek now 61 years old and still rigidly frozen despite waves of automation and downsizing, we have loaded the natural market-demanded working hours on proportionately fewer and fewer people and flattened their pay and benefits regardless of their hours. We can continue with the Democrats' failed liberal policies of throwing money at the grocery list of detailed problems, micromanaging all the way, or we can attack the paper and ink of the list itself - our failure to share the vanishing work. Here's the same type of story on a national level by a standard "go back to the old failed welfare setup" liberal from tomorrow's NYT -]
    The vanishing act - The loss of welfare and other help in tough times, op ed by Bob Herbert, 11/19/2001 NYT, A23.
    The U.S. unemployment rate rose sharply in October, to 5.4%, the biggest jump in five years.... We will soon be hearing about the terrible difficulties jobless men and women will encounter when, after tumbling out of the labor market, they look around for a helping hand that is not there....
    [No, don't let them tumble out of the labor market. Cut our obsolete workweek and share the vanishing work, and quit the failed liberal backbends that are too little, too late. The only adequate economic design for a rapidly automating economy is a flexible workweek that adjusts automatically against unemployment. As long as unemployment is too high or rising, the workweek adjusts downward. If unemployment ever gets "too low" (whatever that is, when you rule out controlling inflation by fostering unemployment - the Fed's self-cannibalizing NAIRU approach), the workweek can adjust back upward.]

11/10/2001  1 homelessness item - 10/31/2001  1 homelessness item - 10/30/2001  1 homelessness item - For earlier homelessness stories, click on the desired date -
  • Jan-Sep/2001.
  • Dec/2000 & earlier.

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