NEW YORK—New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s offhand comment at in a press conference on Tuesday that “nobody’s sleeping on the streets” has drawn ire from homeless advocacy groups.
Bloomberg was responding to a question about allegations that families are being turned away from shelters despite freezing temperatures.
The Mayor explained that the city’s goal is to ensure those who need services get them, and those who don’t do not drain resources. The offending comment came at the end of his reply.
“The public does not want to and should not have to support somebody if they have alternatives. We want to make sure that our monies are available to those who really don’t have any alternatives so that is all we are trying to do. Nobody is sleeping on the streets,” said Bloomberg.
“It’s a remark that just seems so out of touch with the everyday reality that New Yorkers see,” Patrick Markee with the Coalition for the Homeless told NY1 Wednesday.
The New York City Coalition for the Homeless estimates that more than 48,000 people are currently living in shelters citywide.
Junior Clarke, 23, told the Daily News in a report published Saturday that his family was trying to stay at the Bronx Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) Center, a shelter used by families, on a very cold day last month.
When he tried to enter a shelter with his wife and 4-year-old daughter they were turned away. “They tried to send us outside into the cold,” Clarke said.
“They threatened to have us thrown out by police,” he was also quoted as saying.
In the past, New York implemented a “code blue” policy when the temperature dipped below freezing, but there was a recent policy shift requiring residents to prove that they have nowhere else to stay.
Last week, a New York state appeals court ruled that a city policy requiring homeless adults to prove they had no other housing to gain eligibility was illegal, reported The New York Times. The court reported that the city used dubious methods to enact the policy and held no public hearings before making their decision.
New York City’s Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said the court ruling “will force the city to build more shelters in neighborhoods throughout the city,” reported the Times.
“We are confident that city taxpayers and community groups, especially those who object to new shelter proposals, understand the need for a thoughtful approach that fairly reserves shelter for those with no alternatives,” Diamond added, “and we will continue to fight to see that such a policy is implemented.”
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