PERSONAL NOTE: Just the other day, a friend and I had a long conversation or dialogue about problems living in Seattle…especially about the homeless people. And he and I shared this one thought: the more Seattle tries to provide services for the homeless, the more will come to the City! The homeless are not stupid…they pass on the information…one beggar telling another beggar where to find the food! I support this concept! So New York is going through difficult times, spending enormous amount of energy, time and money to help the homeless! When will it end? Oh…someone asked me about the homeless in China? Not so during the time of Chairman Mao, but with the market economy going in full steam, we are beginning to see beggars on the streets, etc etc etc. Yes, something new in China and we are beginning to see the poors in the streets, begging for money. Peace, steve, usa october 15, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-China.com
Chinatown killings focus spotlight on New York’s homeless
By Belinda Robinson in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-15
Appeal made for more affordable housing
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acted quickly after four homeless men were beaten to death earlier this month by an attacker wielding a metal pipe nearly 1 meter long in the city’s Chinatown district.
A fifth person was left seriously injured.
De Blasio said the city would provide additional social services for the homeless in the area and increase security measures.
“What happened shakes the conscience of who we are as New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. “We are sending experts to the neighborhood to provide support during this difficult time and will continue to assess how to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.”
Randy Santos, 24, was arrested on Oct 6 by New York police and charged with murder and attempted murder. Police said Santos is homeless himself.
City councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents Chinatown, called on the mayor to create more affordable housing specifically for the homeless.
“This senseless and devastating act of violence against the most vulnerable members of our community must serve as a wake-up call. We must do more than the bare minimum to help the tens of thousands of New Yorkers in our homeless shelters and on our streets,” she said in a statement.
The killings shocked people and drew fresh attention to the homeless problem in the city of 8.5 million, where nearly one in every 121 New Yorkers is without a home, according to The Bowery Mission, which has served homeless and hungry people in the city since the 1870s.
Last year, there were 78,676 homeless people in New York, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, followed by Los Angeles with 49,955 and 9,780 in San Francisco. HUD’s figures are based on data reported by some 3,000 cities and counties nationwide.
While New York has far more homeless than Los Angeles, it has a much lower percentage of unsheltered homeless, 5 percent, compared with 75 percent in Los Angeles, HUD said.
Other figures illustrate the homeless situation in New York.
An outreach program to help the homeless expects to spend $126 million this year, including sending in 400 workers, according to a spokesman for the city’s Department of Homeless Services.
More than 59,000 people live in shelters for the homeless, according to city officials.
In August, there were 14,806 homeless families with 21,802 children in the city, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
In addition, the city places individuals and families in hotels. In 2017, New York’s comptroller, a state cabinet officer, said about $530,000 was spent per day on the provision of hotel rooms. Last year, the city said it would spend $364 million annually over the next few years to house the homeless in hotels.
The Aladdin, a former hotel that now shelters the homeless, houses 300 people. Located just west of Times Square on West 45th street, it is just across the street from the Broadway theater area.
From 2015 to this year, the Department of Homeless Services provided more than $27 million to house homeless adult families in these premises, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But after a series of incidents involving residents-including stabbings, prostitution, gun sales and a murder-it will cease operating by the end of the year, the department said.
Homeless people living on New York’s streets are a common sight. They lie strewn against storefronts on sidewalks in the luxury shopping area of Fifth Avenue and in Times Square, a popular tourist attraction. Some curl up in corners displaying handwritten signs highlighting their plight and shake empty paper coffee cups at passersby for spare change.
Then there are those who stay out of sight, finding shelter in abandoned buildings, under bridges and in subway tunnels, living with rats.
For many of the homeless, the subway system is the safest place to sleep, with trains and stations providing shelter that the streets do not.
The number of homeless on the subway has increased from 1,771 last year to 2,178, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is hiring 500 transit police officers to patrol subways and stations.
The authority acted after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo complained that people should feel safe on the subway, but often do not.
“A customer has a right-a rider has a right-not to be harassed, not to be threatened, not to be subjected to intolerable conditions. I’ve never seen it this bad,” Cuomo said of homelessness in July. “Let’s actually focus on helping the homeless, rather than political posturing.”
Homeless people can be fined for committing minor offenses on the subway. But a one-year pilot plan launched by De Blasio, the mayor, seeks to change that by referring them to social services at a cost to the city of $1 million.
For many, living on the streets or elsewhere is preferable to city shelters, where they can face the threat of violence and robbery.
“I hate trying to find a place to sleep at nights,” said Nicholas, 38, from New York, who declined to give his surname. “I won’t go to the shelters because they’re not good. They’re dangerous. All the beds are right next to each other. You’ve got guys sleeping next to you who are on coke (cocaine). You don’t know what they might do. I’m not going to those places.”
He said he became homeless after losing his job 10 months ago. He started using drugs to cope with the situation, went to a treatment facility and got clean, but was then evicted from his apartment and ended up on the streets.
“Now I’m here-no coat, just the clothes on my back. I can’t believe things got so bad,” Nicholas said standing in the rain in Times Square with a makeshift cardboard sign that read: “Homeless and humiliated. I feel like I’m invisible. Just trying to raise $50 for a room, and if I’m blessed enough, a shower.”
He said: “The way people treat you is bad. It’s like you’re not human. I have no family here. My mom is in Puerto Rico. What people don’t realize, especially in New York, is that you can be one paycheck away from being homeless. It’s that simple.”
On 72nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, a homeless man in his 60s, who did not want to give his name, was rummaging through cans in the trash looking for food, when he pulled out a half-eaten sandwich.
He said he would not live in a shelter or anywhere else, even if offered such accommodations. “I’ve lived on the streets for 20 years. It doesn’t bother me, even when it rains. It’s nothing. It doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re all human,” he said.
Like Nicolas, some of the homeless lost their jobs and then their apartments. Others became homeless after getting hooked on drugs or alcohol, according to the Department of Homeless Services.
Drugs have been the leading cause of death among homeless men in New York for the past three years and among homeless women for the past five, according to figures from the department. Overdoses killed 86 people in 2017, and 81 in the first four months of last year, up from 12 for the same time period in 2017.
D. J. Jaffe, executive director of the independent Mental Illness Policy Org, said those with a serious mental illness-such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-need to get immediate treatment.
“We need more hospitals. Some people need to be in a hospital. We need more group homes with on-site support. The mayor should focus on adults with a serious mental illness and not all others. That’s the key. We’re spending more and getting less,” he said.
“We used to have a hospital-based system to treat the seriously mentally ill. Now we have a community-based system that won’t accept those that are homeless, have a substance abuse problem or a criminal record. So, when community programs start excluding the most seriously ill, the only place people have to go is the streets.”
The Coalition for the Homeless provides daily food, clothing, eviction prevention and crisis services for more than 3,500 homeless people, including children, in New York. While there is an extensive network of shelters across the city, there is insufficient permanent, affordable housing, the organization said.
Last year, 133,284 homeless men, women and children slept in premises provided by the New York City municipal shelter system, the organization said.
The mayor wants to open 90 new shelters by 2022, especially for men, and these would include mental health services. His administration has opened only 27 shelters to date, in part because residents in some areas have protested or even sued to block them from opening, fearing for their safety.
Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement, “New York City and New York State must build enough deeply subsidized housing for homeless New Yorkers to match the scale of need.”
Dozens of churches across the city also help the homeless. Some collect secondhand clothing for those in need, while others run soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters.
Arianna Fishman, media secretary for the Department of Homeless Services, said the city authorities and the department’s street action teams were monitoring Chinatown closely.
Mental health outreach services for the homeless in Chinatown will be increased. Psychiatrists and clinicians from the city’s Department of Health and its mental health program will perform street evaluations and provide substance abuse resources to the homeless, officials said.
As Chinatown residents sought to come to terms with the deaths of the four homeless men, a community vigil was held on Oct 8.
Omar Robinson, 50, who is homeless and lives on the streets near Chinatown, said he had met two of the men who died and even shared a drink with them. He described them as immigrants who were undocumented and could not work, so they lived in “misery.”
A day after the murders, he said: “All of the homeless people are scared. They’re fearful because it can happen to anyone. There’s a lot of people out here with mental health and anger issues. Unless something is done, it will happen again.”
Kong Wenzheng in New York contributed to this story.