Homeless Policy and the City’s Eligibility Process
by Anthony Stasi
Feb 27, 2013 | 2886 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two weeks ago a judge declared that the process of how the city determines who is eligible for shelter is not legal. While this seems like a big victory for advocates, it might make less sense on an administrative level.

Under the current policy, if a person has some alternative to public shelter, that is what the city explores first. Nobody ever suggested that going back to an uncomfortable family situation is easy, but the city’s exhausted shelter system cannot be the option because it is easier than going back home.

The other part of this policy that does not get reported on often is that city employees are careful about how they seek alternatives to shelter. They do not just throw someone out if they see that a person has a sibling. This policy is carefully approached, because many times the alternatives can be dangerous, for example, an abusive spouse.

Critics say that by making people prove they have no place else to go is putting the onus on the wrong end of policy. But then who should prove that someone has no other alternative? Government employees? That could get really ugly. Picture someone fresh out of graduate school going through somebody’s family tree in order to declare them not eligible for shelter.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond handled this perfectly, stating that it was only the process that was brought into question, not the actual intent of the policy. If people do not like this process, then they need to be open to more shelters being created – and that means no complaining in court when there is a homeless shelter in your neighborhood.

If City Council members are in favor of a more lenient entry system for shelters, they have to be open to the city putting more shelters up in their districts.

The Bloomberg administration has been aggressive on homelessness, even if it has not been very successful. There is no policy for the homeless that makes people happy because the issue itself revolves around poverty. There is nothing good about homelessness.

Keeping the eligibility requirements focused on those who have no place to go helps secure that there will be enough shelter for the poorest in the city. In the end, we all want the same thing, which is to get that awful number of 49,000 homeless down.

Mayor Vetoes Bill

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bill that would have made it illegal to purposely not hire a person because they were already unemployed. We knew this was going to be the fate of this bill, and that is why City Council members need to take into consideration the possibility of these bills actually making it into law ahead of time.

In theory, this bill made sense. No employer should nix someone because they are unemployed. In fact, one would think that interviewing while working someplace else would look worse. The mayor vetoed the bill because legislation like this could clog up the courts.

The City Council should not let this fade away, however. For employers who state in writing that an applicant needs to be currently employed, they should be exposed. Let the City Council produce a list of preferred – or non-preferred – places to work, based on this policy, and watch how fast this practice goes away.

No business or public agency wants to be singled out. That is how you address this without legislation, without courts, without lawyers. As for employers who do not admit to this practice, there is just no way to prove why they may or may not hire someone.

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