What does it say about a man if he dedicates his entire life to taking a massive amount of money and resources away from the poor and middle class and handing it to the world’s wealthiest people — especially when the nation’s richest 1% own 38.6% of the country’s wealth and the top 0.1% have aboutthe same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%?Read More
But the problem with the stupid new fad of drinking unfiltered water is not that a handful of wealthy, post-science, anti-vaxxer loons will pay big bucks for repackaged, sewage-infused pond water. Sure, they are misguided narcissists (these random conspiracy theorists somehow know better than a century of science?), but these relative few will have easy access to cholera treatment when they inevitably drink shit.Read More
Earlier this week, I read a Thrillist listicle about the best under-the-radar holiday activities to do in New York City, each entry an alternative to an overdone Christmas traditions. The list suggests visiting Staten Island’s Winter Wonderland instead of the Bryant Park Winter Village or checking out Gingerbread Lane in the Queens Hall of Science rather than maneuvering through crowds at the New York Botanical Garden’s holiday train show.Read More
Giving Tuesday may have passed, but one homeless man is embracing his new role as a philanthropist after an inspiring act earned him hundreds of thousands of donated dollars.
Johnny Bobbitt, Jr., a former paramedic experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia, came to the aid of Kate McClure when her car ran out of gas on a strip of highway. Bobbitt walked two miles to the nearest gas station, used his last $20 to buy gas and delivered the fuel to McClure.
Instead of simply paying Bobbitt back, McClure shared the story and established a GoFundMe page that quickly went viral. Less than three weeks later, the fund has raised nearly $400,000 from 14,000 individuals inspired by the Good Samaritan act.Read More
As an offensive lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Joshua Garnett excels in one of the most macho cultures in the US, but he’s using his platform to tackle an issue long treated as too gross or too uncomfortable for men to talk about — periods and menstrual hygiene.
Garnett has teamed up with his sister Rachel’s organization Kitty Packs to help homeless women who experience “free bleeding,” which is what happens when a woman is unable to access expensive sanitary pads or tampons to manage her period.Read More
This lazy editorial encapsulates the New York Post's perception of homelessness in #NYC. To them, the only #homeless people are the prominent & disruptive—yet statistically small—group of men and women with mental illness on the street. Meanwhile, 22,885 kids slept in a DHS shelter last night.Read More
Housing First for GlobalCitizen.org
If we start with the premise that housing is a basic human right we cannot accept homelessness. It's simple. And yet not one municipality in the country considers permanent housing a human right.
New York City is going through a humanitarian crisis with more than 60,000 people staying in municipal homeless shelters each night. In addition, countless others experience housing instability but are not counted in the official homelessness figures because they're not logged by a city agency. They crash with friends, family, acquaintances and strangers or they sleep on the street or the subway or church steps.
But it could be worse. New York City, at the very least, provides shelter to anyone who needs it. It is the only municipality in the country that guarantees shelter to anyone in need based on a 1979 ruling known as Callahan v. Carey, after the lead plaintiff - a homeless man - and the then-governor of New York.
Seattle is also experiencing its own homeless crisis right now. More than 12,700 people live on the streets, in cars, in dangerous encampments or in shelters. A study conducted by Zillow rates Seattle as having the third highest homeless population in the country after only New York and Los Angeles. Seattle is more than ten-times smaller than New York.
Moon said she does support a mandate. Durkan proposes 700 new shelter beds but said she does not support a legal right to shelter.
The effect, she said in a statement, would be “diverting millions of dollars in scarce resources to warehousing people experiencing homelessness in sometimes degrading shelters rather than providing people the housing they need to permanently exit homelessness."
I hear what she's saying - shelters are notoriously nasty and potentially dangerous. But why do they have to be?
More importantly, why build and guarantee shelters when we can build and guarantee housing?
We severely limit our thinking and capacity for innovation when it comes to homelessness, here in New York City and across the country in Seattle. We allow shelters to remain dirty and dangerous, even as families with children comprise the majority of the homeless population.
We say the city doesn't have enough money to build affordable housing for the homeless, but we don't seem to analyze whether that's true. Or what it would take to build housing. We dismiss the idea as unrealistic — it's not. We just don't have the will to accomplish it.
We point to NYCHA and say city-operated housing is inevitably crappy and unsafe. But it doesn't have to be. We don't have the will to fix and maintain public housing.
We need to expand our thinking and consider how the city can compel private developers to build truly affordable housing. Or how the city can build the housing itself.
Expanding our minds also means that we cannot accept subhuman conditions for people in homeless shelters as though it's a natural phenomenon.
Homelessness is not natural; it's a human-made crisis. One that we could address immediately — if only we had the will to.
But right now, it's news when a long shot candidate in Seattle musters the will to pledge temporary shelter for all.
I noticed two stories about voting among the homeless this week that reminded me of my experience organizing a voter registration drive at an organization that serves homeless teenagers and young adults. The first, in City & State, asks the question "Do the Homeless Vote?" and details the various barriers – including polling site confusion and inconsistent addresses – that can prevent homeless people from heading to the polls in New York City. In the second, "I'm Homeless and I Vote" - from the Seattle magazine The Stranger - a former business owner who is now homeless in the Seattle area describes the experience of modern homelessness and the lack of response from politicians to the root causes of homelessness like poverty and limited affordable housing.
From City & State:
The homeless often move in and out of homelessness, and by definition often do not have a fixed residence, but [the National Coalition for the Homeless] estimates that only 10 percent of homeless people actually vote in a presidential election. Among the U.S. population as a whole, it’s about 60 percent.
Income statistics reveal an unsurprising trend. New Yorkers in households making less than $25,000 a year, which includes many homeless people, made up 21 percent of the state’s population in 2014, but less than 15 percent of its voters.
When I worked at a drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ teenagers and young adults in Northern Manhattan, I organized a month-long voter registration drive in Spring 2016, just in time for the New York State presidential primaries. I printed a bunch of voter registration forms and went table to table during breakfast and lunch encouraging people to sign up. I ended up registering about 25 people, including a few staff members, and I used agency postage to mail the forms before the primary deadline. It was easy to do, but it was one of the most satisfying things I've accomplished in my social service career.
Skepticism was a problem. Many of the young people parroted the familiar "What's the point? My vote doesn't matter" refrain. I couldn't blame them — they were mostly gay and trans people of color kicked out of their homes and discriminated against because of their identities. Many were skeptical that a politician would genuinely represent them.
Sometimes, however, peer pressure overwhelmed their guardedness. Excited teenagers won over those lunchtime companions who affected a hardened cynicism.
The other, much more tangible problem was what address the young people should include on their registration form. Some stayed at the drop-in center overnight when there was space. Others lived in transitional housing or engaged in survival sex, spending the night with strangers in exchange for sex. Meanwhile, others crashed with friends or slept on the street and in the subway. Overall, few maintained consistent addresses. The City & State piece addresses this issue.
I recommended that the individuals without a stable address list the address of the drop-in center or a friend's house where they often stayed.
One young transgender man was particularly excited to vote. For a few weeks leading up to the election, he discussed the research he was doing and the tough decision of whether to vote for Bernie or Hillary.
Yet, on election day, he seemed reluctant to visit the polling place. I reminded him how excited he had been for weeks, but he still seemed apprehensive. It took me a little while to realize that he was nervous to vote for the first time. He wanted some support.
So I said I wanted to check out the energy near the polling place and suggested I walk over with him. He agreed to accompany me and we walked a few blocks to a school. As we approached, I told him how to check in to the table by last name and that he didn't need to show ID. I remembered the first time I voted when I was 18 — I also felt scared to try something new, to make a mistake, to be an adult.
Finally, the young man started to walk inside and I told him I'd see him when he returned to the drop-in.
"You're not going to wait for me?" he asked, betraying his apprehension.
"Na, you don't need me," I said. "You've already done the work getting here."
He laughed nervously, said I was right and walked inside.
A half hour later, he returned to the drop-in center bubbling with energy. He showed off his 'I Voted' sticker and shared the experience with other clients, encouraging them to register and vote in November's general election.
It was beautiful.
So how to replicate this experience, especially among young people and new voters?
We have to make it easier for transient individuals to update an address and we have to provide support on Election Day. Bureaucracy and governmental proceedings can be intimidating, especially for people long screwed by policy and by those in power. We always hear that we 'should' go vote, but we rarely hear about the actual (pretty simple) process.
Here are two solutions:
1.) Make voter registration a part of the intake process at shelters, social service organizations and supportive housing sites.
2.) Go to the polls as a team. Social service staff can rally a group of new voters to serve as a support system, arrange a time to head to the polling place and get an experienced voter to lead them.
Earlier this week, I wrote a story about nutritional deficits for young people in foster care as well as young adults aging out with limited social supports for City Limits. People who have experienced foster care speak about entering adulthood – 'the real world' – without the soft skills (cooking, hygiene, cleaning, using health insurance) that people with consistent family structures tend to take for granted. Guardians either model behaviors or remain readily available to share guidance about confusing adult topics.
Young people who have been in the foster care system experience a higher rate of preventable health problems, like diabetes and hypertension, than their peers, even when compared to other low-income young adults who did not spend time in foster care.
There are some supportive housing sites for young people who have aged out of foster care. They also receive priority for NYCHA vacancies. But many fall through the cracks, either neglected by foster agencies or eager to leave the system and never look back. That means people who spent time in the foster care system have a higher risk of becoming homeless and thus a higher risk for the related health problems.
Vote for the city you want.
That's the message on PSAs in subway tunnels and on bus stop glass as New York City prepares for next week's mayoral and council primaries.
The author Michael Greenberg posed a similar challenge in his widely read analysis of the affordable housing crisis in the New York Review of Books last month:
To what extent should a renter who fulfills the terms of his lease be shielded from the vagaries of real estate markets with their speculative booms and busts? More broadly, what kind of city do New Yorkers want to live in? What responsibility, if any, do we bear to make sure that our most besieged citizens are not pushed out by our current urban prosperity?
Last week, I left my job in Washington Heights and jogged southeast, through the NYCHA towers toward Harlem River Drive and over a pedestrian bridge to Harlem River Park. Three people sat on a dirty futon surrounded by shopping carts and boxes at the shady and secluded end of the bridge, just before it reached the sunny grass. On the other side of the overpass, a man slept wedged, almost hidden, between large gray rocks.
What kind of city do you want?
In a Slate interview, Greenberg summarizes the power the City and – especially – the State wield over private developers but fail to deploy in address the humanitarian crisis. It's a key point in his essay:
There’s a tremendous amount of power that the city and the state have to shape the real estate market. They have more power than the private developers, because they have zoning power, they have tax break power. They can strengthen rent laws. They can weaken them. They can put lower-paying tenants in rent-stabilized and regulated apartments in jeopardy. They can make it easier for developers and speculators to push them out in a rising market.
In the first Democratic Mayoral Primary debate, moderator Brian Lehrer asked a hypothetical question to Mayor Bill De Blasio and challenger Sal Albanese about halting for-profit development until developers created a meaningful number of affordable units. Albanese embraced the idea, but De Blasio rejected it.
"He has basically turned over the city to big developers. That's the bottom line," Albanese said during the debate.
The next day, when Lehrer hosted his fellow moderators Errol Louis from NY1 and Laura Nahmias from Politico on his WNYC show, they discussed Lehrer's affordable housing question.
Louis said that were such a for-profit freeze to take effect, construction crews would immediately work three shifts a day, every day to build the required number of affordable housing units so that they could resume building their money-making luxury towers.
But instead, the city has given up. The city requires virtually nothing from developers aside from a bit of affordable housing for upper-middle class people with other options – not the truly needy families making less than $40,000 a year (Not to mention that to a few million people, $40,000/year sounds like a hell of a lot of money).
Greenberg writes that, in 2016, of the 6,844 new affordable units that developers built using the 421-a tax break/giveaway, only 35 percent or fewer than 2,400, went to "households making less than $40,000, the income level that is being most relentlessly pressured with eviction from older, 'undervalued,' rent-stabilized buildings."
What kind of city do you want?
A city that evicts its low-income citizens then ships them back in every morning from Central Jersey so they can care for our elderly? Rouses them from their municipal shelter cubicles so they can wash the clothes we drop off at the laundromat in their old neighborhood?
Or a city that integrates cultures and incomes? That takes care of the engines who make it run?
I want a city no longer beholden to real estate developers, with the capability to design its own housing laws and to resist developers' influence over upstate lawmakers abetted by DINO senators and a fauxgressive governor, led by councilors with experience advocating for tenants' rights and affordable housing. I want a city where neighbors have an apartment, not a campsite under pedestrian bridges or a narrow space between boulders.