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[Commentary] © 2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080

Homelessness Stories, Oct-Dec/2002


12/24/2002   homelessness in the news - get out your hankies, the New York Times treats us to 2 stories on homelessness this Xmas Eve -

  1. 'Temporary' homeless plan keeps growing in New York, by Leslie Kaufman, NYT, front page.
    A city program to hose homeless families temporarily in individual apartments across New York, begun as an emergency program two years ago, has ballooned to involve more than 2,000 apartments that now accommodate roughly a quarter of the city's homeless families. The program, which city officials themselves admit is flawed, has cost the city tens of millions of dollars and placed scores of families in buildings with histories of violations for dangerous conditions.
    As a result, a city government that is facing its worst fiscal crisis in 3 decades is paying, on average, $2,900 a month to house and provide for individual families, and has spent $33 million on the program just since July.
    And because the city treats the program as an emergency effort, it has, over the years, lightly examined the qualifications of the landlords and agents with whom it has contracted to house the families. As a result, some of the buildings in the program have been repeatedly cited for rat infestation and peeling paint.
    [Lead paint?? That would sure make it a bonus point, but here's a pretty good one anyway -]
    One complex of buildings, where the city houses 262 families, had so many violations that the courts placed it in receivership.
    Further, because the city pays for some renovations to the apartments used by the homeless families, the program has angered other tenants,
    [and you can bet this ain't the only reason]
    who complain that the landlords have used little of their windfall to improve conditions in any other apartments.
    [And why should they - they're not getting paid for that. But it does kinda wipe the traditional American&global incentive to support yourself and be independent when you're a struggling working family and a complete bathroom renovation has just been done for the completely unemployed, erstwhile homeless family next door while your W.C. still looks like a war zone.]
    City officials concede the program must be ended - they admit that it is too costly, and that it fails to offer the families the intensive help they need - but have, to date, been unable to halt its growth....
    [or come up with an alternative. We swear, there are so many crises breeding in this "Richest Nation in the World" dba "Land of Opportunity" (hohoho) that the only intelligent answer to any of them is Timesizing. Cut all the crap about "the wealthy's money works just as hard as the poor's" and "technology creates more jobs than it destroys" and "the majority of Americans own stocks" (heard that ringer just today on NPR) and "work hard to get ahead" (even if competition with robotization has you going all the way back to totaling workweeks that haven't been seen since 1840 except in the American "health" care professions - and just SHARE THE VANISHING WORK.]

  2. Homeless children: The trauma of separation, letter to editor by Sarah B. Greenblatt of New Haven CT, NYT, A24.
    A significant proportion of NYC's homeless shelter population includes families with children. Mayors from other big cities are calling for better shelters and services for the homeless (news article, Dec. 18).
    In contrast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg [of NYC] has proposed that homeless families deemed out of compliance with housing search requirements and shelter rules be ejected from shelters for a minimum of 30 days, and that children of these families be separated from their parents through a form of short-term foster care.
    [Wonder how many centuries - or decades? - it will be before overpopulation and persistent recession forces nations to routinely break up non-self-supporting families, put all up for adoption including the adults, and reversibly (surgically only) sterilize non-self-supporting adults. The extended-bandaid route we're going is certainly leading to this "brave" new world.]
    As a social worker who has worked with the homeless, I have seen how keeping families together is critical to children's ability to adjust to highly stressful living circumstances.
    The trauma of removing children from their families can cause irreparable harm to their growth and development and result in high expenditures for the city's health, education and child welfare systems for years to come.
    [Not to mention for the city, state and federal prison systems for decades to come. It's going to take something quite different from "better shelters and services for the homeless" = more and bigger unsustainable bandaids - to solve this problem. It's going to take cutting the bandaids and fixing the problem at its source = we have an arbitrary 40-hour workweek which was, by historical accident, frozen at that level 63 years ago after over a century and a half of sporadic reduction. Now it totally, but TOTALLY, out of sinc with our high levels of worksaving technology and of population inputs into the job market. We need to move swiftly to a workweek that slowly but automatically adjusts to our rising technology and population levels, and an overtime design that automatically filters out the overwork that is just being done for the money and transforms it into training and hiring.]

12/21/2002   homelessness in the news - 12/18/2002   homelessness in the news - 12/07-09/2002   homelessness in the news -
  1. 12/07 Suspect in rape absorbed pain and inflicted it, by Kevin Flynn, NYT, front page.
    When he was 2, his mother sold him to his father for $400, he told a psychologist. At 7, he continued, 2 older boys sexually abused him and threw him in a river. By 17, he was living alone on the streets of New York, scratching for money as an East Harlem deli clerk and sleeping in a van outside of the store.
    Matias Reyes's horror stories, as recounted to doctors and detectives, are hardly a singular tale of desperation in a city as varied as NYC. But they are, at the moment, the closest thing anyone has to an explanation of how a curly haired highschool dropout evolved into a serial predator by the time he was 18.
    [Not that variety necessarily involves desperation. But these horror stories do offer a pretty good explanation, never mind "closest thing to." As the Ecological Age upstages the Economic Age, and quality replaces quantity at the center of human values, societies will gradually stop subsidizing reproduction and start making non-reproduction the default, instead of reproduction.]
    With its report submitted in court this week, the Manhattan DA's office explained why prosecutors believed it was Mr. Reyes, and not 5 teenagers previously convicted, who brutally raped and beat the Central Park jogger in 1989. ...Interviews with people who have dealt with Mr. Reyes over the last 15 years, from detectives who interviewed him to neighbors who took him in, provide glimpses into a man who appeared to process pain by inflicting it on others, many times over....
    [We've lost this one. Lock him up and throw away the key. Put a Kevorkian kit in a niche in his cell wall.]

  2. [And on the other gender side, we have -]
    12/07 Officials say city's sex trade is drawing younger girls, by Diane Cardwell, NYT, A18.
    ...Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the sex crimes bureau at the Brooklyn DA's office, told..\..a joint City Council committee session on teenage prostitution...she had been shocked to work on a case involving 4 girls, ages 11 to 15, who were working for one pimp. "Now several years later, I have many cases involving teenage prostitutes and their pimps, with many more coming down the pike," she said. "We see girls as young as 12 and 13 being recruited to become prostitutes off our streets, in front of group homes, and even on their way to school."...

  3. [And now for some good news -]
    12/07 Help puts family on the road to self-sufficiency, by Kari Haskell, NYT, A19.
    Mercedes Calzado...and her son, Oreidi...lost their jobs this year. Help from charities has prevented the family, including Ms. Calzado's daughter Carla, from living on the streets, but that possibility still looms. [photo caption]
    [Any economic design, such as our current downsizing version of capitalism, that relies on charity for vital functions is lethally flawed. Timesizing-based capitalism does not rely on charity for vital functions.]

  4. [And some non-news -]
    12/09 Homeless in winter, letter to editor by Pres. & CEO Arnold S. Cohen of Partnership for Homeless in NYC, NYT, A28.
    Re "Homeless turn to shelters as temperatures turn icy" (news article, Dec. 4):
    ...No one wants to see homeless people suffering in the cold but effective solutions are not easy. ...Aggressive policing [only] driv[es] homeless people into hiding. A far better policy is - ...Combining small, safe haven shelters with outreach will help these homeless adults accept life-changing services....
    [Fairly innocuous and ineffectual exhortations. How about putting some suction into the job market with a fluctuating workweek that responds to unemployment, comprehensively defined?!   'Course, this guy makes his living off the homeless "problem" so he may not actually want a solution - just more money thrown at the problem.]

11/27/2002   homelessness in the news - 11/17/2002   homelessness in the news - 11/11/2002   homelessness in the news - 11/03/2002   homelessness in the news -
  1. Help for the City's neediest, editorial, NYT, 4-12.
    ...In the last three years, the number of homeless families seeking shelter has gone up 55%. Food banks and soup kitchens are facing larders so emptied by growing need - meals for more than one million people every day [in New York City alone! - ed.] - they have had to turn away hungry children. And while the number of senior citizens in the city has grown significantly, assistance to them has not....

  2. [and nationwide -]
    Cities cracking down on the homeless - 'The problem on the streets now is truly the worst we've seen' - Gavin Newsom, San Francisco lawmaker, by Rene Sanchez, Boston Globe, A25.
    Fed up with the number of homeless people begging and sleeping on their streets, cities across the country have begun taking stern measures to restrict panhandlers or to run them out of town...although advocates say the effort makes criminals of the homeless..\..
    [So, let's get this straight. America, the self-styled Land of the Free and Most Technologically Advanced Nation (but our money is on Japan), despite loads of work-saving technology, retains a workweek that hasn't been reduced since 1940 and the resulting stress and labor glut pushes people into mental illness, then the great USA pushes all its mentally ill out into the streets, then it pushes them all into crime, then it stores them all in jails and prisons at a cost of $30,000 a year. What a utopia! Then arrogant Yankees think they're in a position to lecture the rest of the world on human rights and democracy and freedom! What a laugh.] "We are definitely seeing a rise in the number of places criminalizing homeless people," said Donald Whitehead, exec. dir. of the National Coalition for the Homeless.... Homelessness is on the rise because of the faltering national economy, and some shelter systems and municipal budgets can no longer cope with the demand....
    [The whole shelter approach is a logical outgrowth of FDR's New Deal, which instead of making the private sector clean up its own mess and share the vanishing work with the 30-hour workweek bill, blocked the bill and proceeded to drag taxpayers into massive makework efforts and jobs programs.]
    Counting the homeless is notoriously difficult because many displaced men and women avoid shelters and live on the streets or in their cars.... The US Conference of Mayors said that requests for emergency shelter have increased by an average of 13% in 27 cities over the past year.... "But we don't have an economy in hyperspace anymore," said John Hutar, president of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, which is leading the campaign to change the city's homelessness policies. "It's back to reality. I'm not suggesting that we become mean-spirited to the homeless, but the city is spending close to $200 million a year on this issue, and still nothing changes"..\.. Said Gavin Newcom, "...People really want a new approach to..\..the problem on the streets."...

10/24/2002   homelessness in the news - 10/19/2002   homelessness in the news - 10/18/2002   homelessness in the news - 10/13-14/2002   homelessness in the news -
  1. 10/14   For the homeless, a haven becomes less sure - Cracks appear in Santa Monica's tolerance for the down and out, by Nick Madigan, NYT, A12.
    ...Santa Monica CA, an oceanfront city where the government helps pay for about two dozen programs for homeless peole, runaways and youths emerging from foster care, has long been known for its kindness to the dispossessed. But...last Tuesday the Santa Monica City Council took the first step toward approving a pair of ordinances aimed at the city's homeless population, which...estimates put at 1,000. If passed by the Council on a 2nd reading, scheduled for Oct.22, the measures would forbid sitting or sleeping in doorways in the downtown business district at night and restrict groups that feed the homeless.
    [So, no jobs, no homes - just purely symptomatic relief - for the non-homeless.]
    Many homeless people and their advocates say the measures are tantamount to ejecting the homeless from Santa Monica, where the population of 85,000 swells to as many as half a million on summer weekends.... While over the years a state trespassing law and several previous ordinances here - including night-time park closures, passed in 1995 - have been used to rein in the homeless, the new, more stringent measures are part of an effort by downtown business owners to stop what they see as a blight that affects commerce.
    ...Wally Marks, a landlord on the Third Street Promenade and former chairman of the Bayside District Corp. which runs the downtown business area...said that cleaning up after homeless people who use doorways as toilets is not in the job description of the clerks who oppen businesses in the morning. ...Said a manager at the Broadway Bar and Grill, "These people take up every bench on the promenade, with all their stuff, and shoppers can't sit down...."
    The rule against sleeping in storefront doorways would be enforced between 11 pm and 7am. The other ordinance would require charities to obtain county health department permits in order to conduct feedings, which would then be regulated by the city as distinct events. Charities fear that in the competition for space with other organizations planning events in the parks, they would be edged out.
    To officials here, no other city in the area is doing enough for Los Angeles County's 84,000 homeless people, leaving the burden to Santa Monica. ...With the economy faltering, and charitable contributions down, "this isn't the moment for a compassionate city to draw the line and say, "No more"..\..said Mayor Michael Feinstein...as he visited the City Hall lawn [yester]day on in-line skates. \He\ voted for the measure regarding sleeping in doorways but against the restrictions on feeding. He called it "a way to starve people out of the city."
    ...Some of the homeless waiting to eat here...were...understanding. "All Santa Monica is trying to do is clean up the act"..\..said Fred Chauff...a former merchant marine master captain who has been homeless since losing his nerve, as he put it, after accidentally killing a man on the job..., as he waited for the church group to arrive with the food - canned tuna, crackers, mayonnaise, relish, granola bars, bagels, fruit juice and coffee. "The city is trying to cut down on excessive panhandling and excessive behavior," he said, "and you can't blame them for that."
    Some food providers said they would try to go along. "If we can, we'll comply with the letter of the law," said Fernando Moreno, director of campus ministry at Loyola Marymount University, which has run a feeding program for 5 years. "There's always a way to help the poor - that's a gospel mandate. It's really not an option that we have."
    [How about sharing the limited employment and becoming one of the many cultures on the planet that do not have "the poor," despite Jesus' culture-specific remark that "the poor you have always with you." When this issue is solved, 300-400 years from now, the solution will be based on fluctuating local, state and national workweeks (state can fluctuate below but not above the national workweek level and local can fluctuate below but not above the state workweek level) and on overtime-to-training&hiring conversion. The solution will center on fluctuating local, state and national lines on income per person per month and on overline-to-training&hiring conversion, modeled on the worktime-sharing system. It will be much easier to support oneself, so private charities and government charities (taxpayers) don't have to. Business cycles will no longer exist in anything like their current frequency and virulence, because almost all potential consumers will be activated.]

  2. 10/13   New York's homeless, back out in the open, by Leslie Kaufman & Kevin Flynn, NYT, front page.
    The growing presence of homeless people in places like Union Sq in Manhattan is alarming business groups. [caption on photo showing glittering street at night, with couple walking past park, woman looking away and man looking back at homeless man sitting on bench, shielding behind and under large flattened cardboard box]
    ...Homeless people, whose presence seemed to decline in the flush years of the Giuliani administration, are suddenly more visible, napping on park benches and camped out under scaffolding, possessions in tow. Neither the city nor the groups that advocate on behalf of the homeless actually survey this transient population, so it is impossible to say with certainty that their numbers are growing. City officials insist the problem is more one of perception than of reality, and plan to begin conducting an annual census of the street population this winter so that real data will be available....
    Advocates for the city's poor, on the other hand, insist that the weak economy and a growing lack of supportive housing for the homeless who are mentally ill have led to an increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets. They point out that the average number of single adults in city shelters is 7,728 per night - the highest since 1991. They also say that the city's soup kitchens and feeding vans are reporting crowds that they have not seen since the late 1980's, when the number of homeless in New York peaked....

10/04/2002  homelessness in the news - For earlier homelessness stories, click on the desired date -
  • Jun-Sep/2002.
  • Jan-May/2002.
  • Oct-Dec/2001.
  • Jan-Sep/2001.
  • Dec/2000 & earlier.

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