New York City Michael "Mayor Mike" Bloomberg, the 20th richest human in the world, said this yesterday about his administration's policy of requiring single adults "to prove they have no other alternatives when they are seeking access to a homeless shelter," and of barring homeless families and children from city shelters during freezing weather "if officials determine they have an alternative place to sleep:"
"Nobody's sleeping on the streets," said Mayor Mike.
A city collectively chortled! Of course there are homeless people sleeping all over the streets of New York City (3,200 of them, according to the city itself)—why, just look at the streets of New York City! City Hall acknowledged that Mayor Mike had misspoken. He didn't mean to assert that there were not, in fact, homeless people sleeping on the streets of New York. He was just tacitly acknowledging that those people do not matter, in the grand scheme of things.
The number of homeless people in NYC has risen quite dramatically since Bloomberg assumed office in 2002. In a sense, any New York mayor is in a tough position with homelessness, due to our city's rather unique law that mandates that the city provide housing to homeless people each night. It forces our leaders to address the problem daily, by law, rather than allowing them to ignore it or put it off or marginalize it, as mayors of so many other cities can do, since the homeless do not tend to vote or make political donations. It is, we admit, a burden on our political leaders. Though not as much of a burden as homelessness is on homeless people.
But even by generous standards, Mayor Mike has not done well on homelessness. He pledged to cut the number of homeless people by two thirds during his second term; instead, the number has risen steadily. And there has been no sign of abatement: "The 2012 count of homeless people on the street came last January and marked a 23% increase from 2011, according to the city." There is no need to argue over whether Bloomberg is a well-intentioned municipal savior or a rich, out-of-touch villain. Just look at the numbers. His record on homelessness sucks.
It's a tough issue. There are few easy answers. But if it is an issue that New Yorkers care about. there is one person running for mayor who has a good record.
[Photos via Getty ]