Cathy Bernstein, 10th Congressional, New York

Homeless In NYC Today

 

 

On a personal note, I apologize if you find these pictures disquieting. This is a small group of photos from the hundreds that I have taken over the past few years. For the majority of the people who were awake, I did purchase sandwiches, water or coffee. If they requested their photo not be taken, I did not.  No one's face is visible in these pictures.  These photos, while heartbreaking to view, I hope will move my fellow constituents to call for compassionate solutions.

This is one of the most pressing, exigent issues facing the 10th Congressional today. Today, NYC has the largest homeless population in the country with estimates per July 2019 of over 61,000 children, women and men living in squalor and despair.  The City was given an F for its handling of the homeless in 2019 by the Coalition for the Homeless.

While, Jerry Nadler has "led a delegation to inspect ICE detention facilities containing separated families", I challenge him to pay the same attention to his district....  Visit the West Side of Manhattan and view our homeless US citizens living in filth, eating out of garbage cans and being preyed on at night. In October 2019, a mentally ill homeless man with a long history of violence bludgeoned to death four sleeping homeless men with a 3 foot metal bar in Chinatown.

We also have the right to a safe envioronment where there is not aggressive panhandling, homelesss encampments, open bottles, needles, public urination and defecation, encased mattresses for bed bugs ripped open for sleeping, public exposure to children, and public sex. The residents of the 10th Congressional should not live in fear walking down the street at night. 

I have spent my time attending Community Board meetings, meeting with the City Council women for District 6 with DJ Jaffe, Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy Org,  and talking to the homeless in the 10th Congressional.  Some were able to express their need for affordable housing, drug and alcoholic treatment, and safe and clean homeless shelters. For those with dogs and cats, they told me about their loyalty to their pets and the fact that the shelters had no special accommodations for them. But, the majority of the homeless were mentally ill and they could not converse on any rational level, did not know what year it was or even what city they were in.  The very few who could speak told me of hearing voices and of being preyed upon. Unfortunately, I don’t think they were being paranoid as this is the group that has experienced the most violence sleeping unprotected on the streets at night.

The Liberal view is that being homeless is a right to be protected and that we should eliminate the stigma and educate the public.  Under de Blasio it is illegal to arrest the homeless and the police officers have not received enough training to enact Kendra’s Law. 

The problem is that New York State has slashed its psychiatric bed count in a movement known as Deinstitutionalization, which reduced the State costs of caring for the mentally ill but moved this problem to the local levels.  We now have in the 10th Congressional the majority of NYC homeless living in a chaotic state of disrepair.  In all of NYC, year’s end for 2018, the total capacity for the 5 boroughs was only that of 3,506 beds for the mentally ill per the New York City Department of Homeless Services. 

 

Proposals:

  • A significant increase in federal funding for the 10th Congressional as NYC has the largest homeless population in the country. 
  • Compassionately help the Homeless to move off the streets to affordable housing, drug and alcoholic treatment centers, safer and cleaner homeless shelters with required spaces set aside for those with dogs and cats, and psychiatric hospitalization for those who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar episodes.  
  • Work immediately with HUD for special emergency measures to increase the budget for the homeless in providing urgently needed support for shelters, housing and mental health services. 
  • Eliminate the IMD Exclusion Rule of Medicaid Permanently.

(IMD Exclusion Rule – restricts any use of Federal Medicaid funds to pay for psychiatric care hospitals known as “Institutions for Mental Disease” for individuals from the age of 22 to 64 unless the facility has 16 beds or less and/or the stay is 15 days and less). The background was that Congress wanted the states to meet their financial responsibility, but with NYC now housing the largest homeless population in the country, the IMD Exclusion Rule of Medicaid has placed the homeless in the 10th Congressional in a precarious, life threatening conditions with not enough money to adequately provide for their needs.  

  • Support the Police with more training in using Kendra's Law.   (Named after Kendra Webdale, who died when a schizophrenic individual  had stopped taking his medicine and pushed her in front of a NYC subway).