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opinion | When it comes to homelessness, New York Mayor Eric Adams needs a little religion

During his campaign for mayor last year, Mr Adams said he plans to convert about 700 underutilized hotels into permanent housing. Hotel conversions have been on hold since last fall, when the city’s legal department issued a technical ruling on hotel occupancy regulations that nonprofit housing developers say effectively prevent them from converting hotels for long-term use. A spokesman for Mr Adams said state legislation is needed for the city to address regulatory issues with the hotel modifications. Fine. That should be a priority, however, as the mayor is enlisting all the help he needs from Albany to move forward with a compelling, urgent plan.

Other units are available but stand empty, thanks to a tangle of dysfunctional city bureaucracy that also demands Mr Adam’s attention. Eric Rosenbaum – the president and chief executive of Project Renewal, a nonprofit that provides housing, health and jobs to the homeless – said the job of getting a person off the streets into permanent housing could involve filing paperwork with up to one half dozen include city agencies ranging from the Department of Homeless Services to the Department of Health. In other cases, advocates say units have sat vacant for months after the death of a previous tenant because of delays with city coroner officials having to sign off before the apartment is made available again.

With rents rising and a significant number of New Yorkers at risk of eviction, New York’s vast bureaucracy needs to be redesigned to serve as a bulwark against homelessness at every agency and at every level. In just one example, the city agency responsible for combating discrimination against New Yorkers who use coupons to secure housing appears to have no staff, according to a report in City Limits. Mr. Adams had better take care of it.

At the moment the most desperate scenes of the real estate crisis are playing out in public. Children sleep in crowded subway cars. Outside of New York’s most famous landmarks and in its famous parks, people struggle with mental illness and drug addiction. Watching her suffering has always been uncomfortable for the rest of the city. Nowadays it feels like a daily reminder of our own fragility.

For weeks, workers from the New York City Police Department, the Department of Health and the Department of Homeless Services have been aggressively dismantling homeless camps across the city, forcing people to disperse. People who live on the streets and the nonprofit workers who serve them say the city mostly offers help they don’t want, like referrals to dormitory-style, city-run shelters that have a reputation on the street, being both dangerous and stressful.

Homelessness is a vexing public order problem. But the basics are clear: the key is to use trusted social workers and other professionals to coax people into temporary and then permanent housing that is safe, peaceful and, most importantly, includes their own bed and bathroom – needs, with which everyone can identify. Equally important is reshaping the city’s approach to services such as treatment for addiction, trauma and abuse, and mental health disorders so that they are truly accessible to the people who need them. That’s the way forward instead of sending sanitation workers who usually pick up trash to shoo people out of the way.

Speaking outside Redeemer Church last Sunday, Ivan Cabrera Jr. — a 28-year-old with golden skin, a shock of black hair and a disarmingly bright smile who uses “she” pronouns — said they’d been living on the streets and in shelters ever since at 17 when her parents kicked her out of the house for being gay. They said they didn’t trust the shelter system in part because a friend was killed in one of the shelters a few years ago.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/15/opinion/mayor-eric-adams-homelessness-nyc.html opinion | When it comes to homelessness, New York Mayor Eric Adams needs a little religion

Mike Fahey

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