Welcome to the 1st installation in our new column, Big Apple Dinner Party Discussions! The idea is to explore topics or events that are happening in NYC that certainly make for interesting (and dare I say even important?) discussions for your next dinner party or date…or with the person standing behind you in line at Whole Foods. You know, something to babble on about other than the crazy weather we’re having. If you have suggestions of topics you would like explored, please leave them in the comments below! And without any further adieu…here we go!
Just walking down 5th Avenue, it’s clear that homelessness is very much an issue. You can’t pass a corner without seeing one of the following:
With a city population of 8.4 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2013, this means roughly one in every 125 New Yorkers is currently sleeping in overpopulated shelters or on the street.
What, we often wonder, is the solution? Should we just keep walking? Dole out dollars and clear your pockets of change with the hope that it will at least get the person something to eat? Suggest a list of city shelters that may still have beds open for the night? Tell them that if they really just want a plane ticket home (or anywhere else in the world they may have a couch to crash on), the city will indeed pay for it?
Wait, come again, you’re probably thinking. I know I sure was. But it’s true! Due to the high price of housing the homeless and their families in NYC, the city will pay for one way plane/train/bus tickets anywhere in the world if they can prove they have a relative waiting to take them in on the other side. This initiative is dubbed Project Reconnect, and was started by Mayor Bloomberg in 2007.
In his first 8 months in office, current Mayor De Blasio has sent 1,412 homeless home…or elsewhere. According to The New York Times, none of the relocated families have returned to city shelters, which would lead one to believe that this is actually a pretty brilliant use of taxpayer’s dollars…get the homeless out of the streets and shelters, and back to a place they can call home. Homeless Services spokesman Christopher Miller called the program “a compassionate solution that reunites homeless New Yorkers with their loved ones or other stable housing and employment options.”
But not everyone views it that way. Arnold Cohen from the Partnership for the Homeless thinks the whole thing is just another way for the city to pass along its problems. He states: “The city is engaged in cosmetics. What we’re doing is passing the problem of homelessness to another city. We’re taking people from a shelter bed here to the living room couch of another family.” My mom, a mental health professional, says back in the day they called this “Greyhound Therapy”…moving the problem from one place to another.
And then you have cynics like Gothamist writer John Del Signore who believes that this initiative will just encourage New Yorkers to “now start posing as transients for one-way tickets to Burning Man.” Yikes.
I’d love to know…what do you think about plane tickets for the homeless? Problem solver or creator? Let’s discuss in the comments below!