In my post, this past Friday, I mentioned that New York City was going to use 400 potentially homeless families as guinea pigs to see if the city’s homeless services were effective.
Basically it boils down to this: 200 families would be provided with services to help them get off the streets. The remaining 200 families would have to fend for themselves because they would be denied homeless services for two years.
Despite outcry from NYC homeless advocates; City Councilwoman Annabel Palma; and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (who incidentally referred to the study as "inhumane"), NYC officials claimed the "study" was necessary to create "Improved homeless-prevention programs [that] would, in the end, keep families or individuals out of shelters."
Later in the day, NYC’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, spoke out in defense of the study.
According to a follow-up article in the New York Daily News, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted as saying:
"In the end, we are only going to spend money on things that work, so we have to find out what works."
NYC Department of Human Services also defended the study claiming that it was "… necessary to see if Homebase works."
According to the DHS website:
"Homebase is a city-wide program designed to help families and individuals overcome immediate housing problems that could result in becoming homeless, and to develop a plan for long-term housing stability."
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for government spending tax-payer dollars as effectively as possible. And, I certainly believe that when government is spending tax dollars on homelessness, it should be seeking to get the highest positive results in return. In short, they should indeed be spending it on programs that work. Subsequently, if those tax dollars can prevent homelessness in the first place, or if they can be used to help get folks off the streets and back into housing as quickly as possible, then I’m all for that.
On the other hand, I don’t believe that folks who are experiencing homelessness and are otherwise eligible to receive assistance should be denied that assistance for the sake of gathering data – particularly when we are talking about families with dependant children. That’s just too callous for my sense of right and wrong.
To be completely honest, I would be willing to give Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Dept. of Human Services the benefit of the doubt when they claim that they have to see if Homebase is "something that works" – except for one particularly noteworthy item: on September 20, 2010, Mayor Bloomberg made public his 2010 Mayor’s Management Report.
On page 41 of the report begins the section for the Department of Homeless Services.
And guess what? It mentions the Homebase program almost right at the start. Furthermore, it says (and I quote):
"DHS continued to help more than ninety percent of clients in all populations receiving prevention services to stay in their communities and avoid shelter entry. This can be attributed to the highly successful model employed by DHS’s community-based homelessness prevention program, HomeBase."
Okay. Now let me see if I have this straight…
Mayor Bloomberg; Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond; Deputy Homeless Services Commissioner Ellen Howard-Cooper; the Dept. of Human Services; and of course, the folks over at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research – who, incidentally, will get paid for conducting the study – and who knows how many others in NYC’s government, are all gung-ho about this study because they want to make sure the Homebase program works.
And all of that, despite that Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 report has already laid claims that Homebase is a "highly successful" homeless program with roughly a 90 percent success rate. And, let’s face it, a 90 percent success rate is nothing to sneeze at – and it would most certainly qualify the program as "something that works."
So, then why the study?
I mean, it’s a no brainer: either the Homebase program is "highly successful" or it’s not. Either it works or it doesn’t work. You can’t have it both ways. And, if it is as "highly successful," as claimed by Mayor Bloomberg and others in his administration, then there is absolutely no reason to conduct the study to see if it’s something "that works."
Either someone’s got their wires crossed, or Mayor Bloomberg and his report are full of the stuff that comes out the hind-quarters of a bull. Or perhaps there’s a bit of financial shenanigans happening between Mayor Bloomberg and CUNY’s Center for Urban Research. Who knows. One thing is for sure: it definitely seems like someone is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of New Yorkers.
Either way, there are 200 families in NYC, through no fault of their own, who will not be allowed access to homeless services for a period of two years.
All of which brings me right back to what I wrote in Friday’s post:
"If New York is so keen on determining the effectiveness of the Homebase program, why not take NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg and his administration; Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond and his staffers; and let’s not forget all of the folks over at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research who are conducting this ‘study,’ and put them out on the streets? And then, deny them homeless services for 2 years and see how well they do."
It’s been a while, but I can feel it coming on…
For their egregious behavior regarding the denying 200 NY families access to homeless services for a period of two years, Mayor Bloomberg; Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond; Deputy Homeless Services Commissioner Ellen Howard-Cooper; NYC’s Dept. of Human Services; and of course, the folks over at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research are the newest recipients of the SLO Homeless Stuck On Stupid Award.
For homeless families in New York City, it’s a shame that the Big Apple is being governed by so many worms.