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New York Post

 

Bloomberg & The Homeless: What the Times Left Out

December 16, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

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With last week’s book-length series about a homeless 12-year-old named Dasani, The New York Times aimed to show how horrible it is to be a poor child under a billionaire mayor. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio took the bait, saying “we cannot let children like Dasani down.”

In fact, Mayor Bloomberg’s New York has tried everything to help Dasani, easily $1 million worth of spending — including nearly half a million in housing, plus hundreds of thousands more on education, a child-neglect investigation, drug rehab and policing.

But you can’t help a family that won’t help itself.

Times reporter Andrea Elliott tells us how Dasani lives in a “squalid” homeless shelter with her seven siblings, mother and stepfather for three years after they get evicted from an apartment. But she never states the obvious: The reason the mother and stepfather can’t house their family isn’t poverty, it’s drug addiction.

Police arrest Dasani’s mother for possession outside the shelter, and she pleads guilty. Both parents fail drug tests. Neither has held a job in “years.”

Nor does Elliot ever adequately explain how Dasani’s family spends $13,464 a year the family gets in cash-benefits income — plus a $49,000 inheritance from 2008. It doesn’t go to housing, food or clothes: The city, the feds (via another $15,000 a year in food-stamp benefits) and private charities pay for that stuff.

Another fact the “tale of two cities” folk never mention: 11.1 percent of families with children who show up at shelters come from outside of New York City. New York may be unequal, but these folk think they’ve got a better shot here.

For a good illustration of how the city does help struggling New York families who help themselves, look at Martha Monroe — a young Harlem woman who fell behind on her rent starting last year after she lost her bank job and went through a difficult pregnancy.

To keep Monroe and her baby boy from a homeless shelter, the city paid some of her back rent. (She cobbled the rest together from private charities, including Catholic Charities.) Now she works at the Metropolitan Museum. “We get paid every two weeks,” she says. “One paycheck goes toward rent.”

The city did the same for a woman named April Bolling — a soft-spoken woman in her 50s who worked for 12 years before having an addiction relapse and losing her job.

Now, April must attend outpatient rehab. She’s taken a seasonal job, and the city is working to find her permanent employment. “This is the best thing to ever happen to me,” says Bolling.

“This” is the Homebase program to prevent evictions. The Bloom­berg innovation helped 10,800 families last year — including at least 650 families who’d likely have wound up in a shelter.

Help can be as simple as holding a class for people worried about eviction to tell them to open their mail, show up to court and offer the judge a plan. Fifteen people showed up to one such Homebase class in Harlem this summer.

But to avoid eviction, parents have to do something. For one thing, they have to show up to ask for help before they end up at a shelter. And addicts must confront their problems.

One-third of the people who avoid eviction via Homebase have jobs. But others do as little as spending income from government benefits on rent, rather than on drugs.

Taxpayers save $1.27 for every dollar spent on Homebase: Keeping people from spending a collective 15,000 nights in shelters saves taxpayers $30 million a year in costs.

But success stories don’t fit the Times’ inequality sob story. So Elliott writes that as Dasani has suffered, some New Yorkers are gulping down “$740 bottle[s] of chardonnay” after buying $845 “calfskin boots.”

And Bloomberg spent $7 million renovating Gracie Mansion, complete “with exquisite touches like an 1820s chandelier.”

Heartless — except the city spends $981 million a year on the homeless, nearly twice the $497 million before Bloomberg took office.

It’s hard to see what more the city could do for Dasani’s family, besides what it eventually does do: find a better shelter with a kitchen and a private bathroom.

De Blasio will learn: All the money in the world can’t save all the Dasanis. And soon, he’ll be the mean mayor who can’t fix everything.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2013/12/15/bloomberg-the-homeless-what-the-times-left-out/

 

 
 
 

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