New York City’s $1.2 billion anti-homelessness campaign isn’t doing enough to get people off the streets, according to a study recently released by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Out of the Department of Homeless Services’ funding — which dwarfs the budgets of the Department of Parks and Recreation at $450 million, Department of Transportation at $880 million and public libraries at $363 million — just $40 million is allocated toward “outreach, drop-in, and reception services. Around $975 million is used toward maintaining shelters, according to the report.
“Only a small fraction is devoted to outreach efforts focused on moving homeless off the street,” the report reads.
The New York-based conservative think tank said while reliable data on the topic is hard to come by, street homeless are more likely to be individuals affected by some sort of mental illness or drug addiction than sheltered homeless — which is largely comprised of families according to the report.
Concerns over homelessness in the Big Apple have been on the rise since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, with more people reportedly seeing an uptick of panhandlers on the streets of the city.
An October Quinnipiac poll shows 61 percent of New Yorkers are unhappy with the way the Democrat has handled poverty and homelessness.
Stephen Eide, a research fellow at the think tank and author of the report, suggested de Blasio’s administration re-evaluate its focus and take more preventive measures.
“In addition to the more obvious differences (families vs. individuals, outer boroughs vs. transit system), government has a much greater obligation to assist the street homeless as a result of the legacy of deinstitutionalization,” the report states. “Yet, in NYC, most resources and energy continue to be devoted toward bringing down the sheltered census.”
It cautioned against the mayor’s plan to allocate $12 million toward anti-eviction legal services unless solid evidence can be provided to prove it will reduce the number of homeless in the city. According to the findings, if it can’t be demonstrated that illegal evictions are on the rise, funds would likely be better used elsewhere.
Eide wrote regulations will need to be eased to develop more accessible rental units for low-income individuals and families. The report also proposes the city implement involuntary inpatient commitment for those with severe mental illness.
“A more helpful legal change would empower public authorities to compel inpatient hospitalization for seriously disturbed individuals,” it says. “Recognizing a ‘right to treatment’ would refocus homelessness law on getting mentally ill people off the streets and onto medication; for most of the public, this is a policy at is likely more pressing than the recent rise in the shelter census.”
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