New York Post Features Op-Ed by Ralph da Costa Nunez
New York Post -
How some homeless 'helpers' are actually doing harm
For some, these are the best of times, for others, they are the worst of times, but for those truly homeless, they are unbearable times.
In today’s down economy, homeless shelters are swamped, with demand often exceeding capacity. In an era of scarce resources, it is absolutely imperative that those truly in need receive the services that the government has to offer.
This is the heart of New York City’s new initiative requiring shelter seekers to prove that they are without alternatives, and truly homeless. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is, in fact, good public policy.
The critical screening of shelter applicants has been in practice for years for New York City’s family shelters. And while the implementation has certainly had some flaws, those in need of shelter get it. There is no reason that the same should not be true for single men and women.
Serving those in need is in everyone’s best interest, but the City Council and many advocates, including the Legal Aid Society, that are suing those charged with carrying out this mission are misguided. What is needed is not a challenge in court before the screening process starts, but an aggressive oversight of it once it is in place.
Government has to be allowed to do its job: Spending the public’s money in the most efficient way, while ensuring that those vulnerable citizens truly in need are taken care of. Advocates and providers alike must be ready to intervene if and when the mechanisms of bureaucracy go astray.
In New York City, unlike in most of the country, everyone has had a right to shelter, not simply for the sake of it, but for the actual need of it. Haven’t we lost sight of that here?
Ralph da Costa Nunez is president and CEO of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness.
Follow the link to read the Op-Ed at the New York Post.