As Bill de Blasio continues to dismantle the NYC education system, to escalate his power struggle with Gov. Cuomo, and promote his relationship with Al Sharpton, it is not difficult to establish that de Blasio is not the sharpest tack in the box. The truth is that if an astute individual were to become Mayor of New York City and evaluate de Blasio’s performance over the past year, de Blasio would be hard pressed to elicit an appointment as dogcatcher.
Currently, Bill has been all over the NY Times over the issue of “homelessness” in NYC. (Note: there is an article in the NY Times 9-23-2015, emphasizing that L.A.’s homeless problem is just as extreme.) This blog is to attempt to explain to Bill exactly why he will not solve this problem. I am hopeful that one of his staff members will read it and explain it to him.
For starters, there is no generic “homeless”. The “homeless problem” in NYC is a conglomeration of families and individuals with different reasons why they are homeless. Therefore any successful approach has to have multiple solutions to resolve these issues. There is one guarantee: the “homeless problem” will never totally be resolved because it does not lend itself to successful resolution.
- Mentally ill:
First, there are degrees of mental illness. There are many people with milder forms of mental illness that are extremely intelligent, perform high level jobs and have occasional setbacks. These individuals take their medications religiously, understanding the ramifications if they do not. We work with them; they are our friends; and they can function normally in society.
Those individuals with more severe degrees of mental illness are a challenge to society. There really is no place for them in the community. Sorry to offend all the psychiatrists; psychologists; clinical social workers; and counselors in America, but there is no cure for “mental illness”. For these individuals, the symptoms may be treated, the disease may be dormant for short periods, the individual may appear to be fine. Do not be deceased; it is a mirage. Pedophiles will always be pedophiles; sex addicts will always be sex addicts (it doesn’t matter how much saltpeter that the U.S. produces). Individuals who perform cruel acts upon animals or humans are incurable. These individuals must be removed from society. To someone who has a relative who has mental illness, these are harsh words; words that could easily be misconstrued as uncaring. But sometimes the truth has to be spoken.
The mentally ill fall into two categories: passive & destructive. The passive mentally ill go through their lives in a harmless, if unproductive fashion. Sometimes, their families care for them until the family members no longer are willing to sacrifice their own lives for their mentally ill relative. Inevitably, these individuals wind up on the street. These individuals might be cared for in a passive, enclosed setting, with basic food, shelter, medical care provided. The problem is that our broken legal system states that they “have rights”, that they are legally competent, and they can pretty much do what they want, e.g. Robert Durst. My solution is to put the judges away to protect us all.
The destructive mentally ill are a major problem. We lack the resources to build new mental hospitals, where we could “incarcerate them”. The annual costs to care for them are astronomical as the caregivers must have safety features in the environment to protect them from violent outbursts at any time. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, radical measures were utilized to deal with this group, but now we are more “civilized”. Answer: any realistic solution is unconscionable in a “civilized society”.
2. Mentally Challenged:
These individuals are classified as “slow”. They barely function, assume low level jobs, i.e. the classic McDonald’s lifetime employee, dishing out burgers and working the counter. They never earn enough to survive in NYC and often wind up on the soup line or in a homeless shelter.
3. Physically Disabled
As much as we would like to believe that current programs to assist the handicapped are effective, there are cases where they do not work. It is uncommon, but these individuals do comprise a small percentage of the homeless.
- Language Barriers
For fear of being called racist or ethnicist, we are reluctant to state publicly that “the inability to speak English” may be a barrier to regular employment. With the major influx of Hispanics to NYC, this problem is decreasing, but it still exists. In the early 1900’s, immigrants understood that speaking English was necessary. Today, immigrants are not anxious to assimilate and often isolate themselves in communities with individuals with similar backgrounds. However, when entering the job market, there remain barriers and prejudice.
- The Disenfranchised
(a) In 2008, families were deprived of their homes through unethical bankers, creating a major national crisis. This situation continues and until these families can recover, they may wind up on the homeless line.
(b) The NYC Housing Authority has always attempted to dispose of individuals that are “undesirables” and those that are in “rent-controlled” housing in order to increase profits by renting to new higher-paying tenants. This will always be the case. Without government intervention, the NYC real estate market, if left to its own devices, would exclude the vast majority of low income families.
- The Indolent – Squeegeemen (or women)
Big Shock! Not everyone wants to work! There are people that are content to nickel and dime it through life. Bloomberg got rid of the squeegies, but not the individuals who were wielding these weapons.
- Drug Addicts & Alcoholics
Part of the urban crisis. Too profitable to ever disappear. We should not be surprised if several of our eminent politicians even have a hand in the perpetuation of this tragedy.
- Illegal Alien Status
Nobody wants to hear about this one as it is currently politically incorrect. But there are people in the U.S. illegally who cannot get jobs and the system supports them. The INS has family members sign documents guaranteeing support, but there is no real enforcement. Currently, deporting these individuals is not fashionable.
This group incorporates radical individuals who do not want to fit into the system. They do not want to work, denounce capitalism, but feel entitled to free handouts. Imprisoning them is senseless as it gives them free food and housing at taxpayers’ expense. So we leave them on the streets.
- Too many children!
Families insist upon producing more children than they can afford. Because of our deference to religious influence in America, words like “sterilization” or “child limitation laws” or even “birth control” are not politically correct. I mean we would not want the Pope to have a heart attack, would we? Maybe the words “intelligent design” should be detoured from “creationism” to family planning.
- Welfare Players:
There are too many individuals that have learned to play the welfare game. By using multiple subterfuges, they are able to access food stamps, various welfare programs, Medicare & Medicaid. Some of these people barely get by, but they prefer living on the street to actually getting a job.
- Street Musicians, Magicians & Artists
A lovely group of talented individuals who simply cannot make a living at their craft. Some of them cannot relate to a normal 9-5 job, choosing rather to live off whatever money is thrown in a hat. At least this group entertains the public, even if they sometimes wind up at the soup kitchen.
I’m certain that a few other characterizations may have been eliminated from this conversation unintentionally. The reality of the “homeless” problem in New York City and/or other urban centers is that there is no realistic solution to this problem. Arresting “vagrants” only costs money, supporting these individuals in our prisons. By and large, homeless shelters are vile places, with never enough space for the needy, with sanitation non-existent, with food in scarce quantities, and no privacy for anyone. There will never be enough money allocated to accommodate the NYC homeless population and, under any circumstances, it is grotesquely unfair for the “working public” to continue to support the homeless in a capitalistic society.
It would be wonderful if private foundations, overpaid professional athletes, and undertaxed hedge fund managers would contribute more substantially to solving this problem, but let’s not hold our breath.
So, Mr. de Blasio, while you are contemplating your Presidential run in 2020, perhaps you should consider that your rhetoric on solving the NYC homeless problem may not be the optimal path to that goal. But Good Luck! Most probably, the homeless will all vote for you! But if common sense rules, the rest of the public will put you back on the scrap heap!