December 5, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

New York Homeless Services Defends their program

In reference to your article “Homeless Hispanics in New York face somber future,” dated November 7, 2008, we found a significant amount of misinformation.

· Regarding the comments and narrative of Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who claimed he needed to be on the streets, and not in a park or the subway, for two weeks to enter shelter, this is completely untrue. New York City Street to Home outreach workers do not only engage clients on streets; parks are part of their responsibilities, along with any other public space. MTA Outreach engages clients in the subway system. Any single adult can go to DHS’ intake center to access shelter; people do not need to be identified as homeless by an outreach worker do so, and do not need to be unsheltered for two weeks. Only our Safe Havens have the requirement of being referred by outreach workers, and these are for chronically homeless individuals. New York City has a right to shelter; any adult who comes to intake will get a bed.

· You do not name your source about New York having a “very low percentage of homeless people living in shelters (who) are Hispanic or Latin American immigrants.” This statistic is false. 29-percent of the adult shelter population and 37-percent of the family shelter population is Hispanic. By comparison, in the 2000 census, 27-percent of New York’s population was Hispanic.

· When you discuss the study “Hidden Hispanic Homelessness in Los Angeles: The ‘“Latino Paradox,’” you imply that the findings are relevant to New York, even though the study was based solely in Los Angeles. The findings have no correlation to New York. Our annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) count allows us to track people who are not in the shelter system. HOPE is an annual count conducted by 2,500 volunteers that provides a point-in-time estimate of the number of unsheltered homeless people in New York City. The HOPE count tracks race and ethnicity. In addition, street outreach workers specifically look for unsheltered homeless individuals in areas where they might not usually be seen, such as abandoned buildings and under bridges and tunnels.

· You mention a statement on the Caritas Foundation website about lack of bilingual staff. DHS does not have a lack of staff who can speak Spanish. The agency has bilingual staff at all of its directly operated adult shelters and at its headquarters. Most of the adult shelters run by our contracted providers have staff who can speak Spanish.

· You mention that “many shelters separate men, women and children.” DHS does not separate men, women and children. Families apply for shelter at the PATH intake center, a completely separate location from where single men and women go to access shelter.

· You end the article with a quote by Mr. Gonzalez that if he “can’t get into a shelter …well…I will have to sleep on the trains, going up and down Manhattan until sunset…” However, there is no reason he can’t get into a shelter. All he needs to do is go to our intake center for single adult men and he will be placed in shelter. In addition, anyone can call New York City’s 311 information line if they see an unsheltered homeless person and a street outreach team will be dispatched to engage the individual.

Eric Deutsch
Senior Communications Specialist

Since 2002 the Chula Vista city council has given the police raises of 35%.

Many of us gasped but never did we realize what this was going to do to us when hard times arrived. We are learning now.

Some Chula Vista city employees have not received a raise for two years but I am hearing that police and/or fire are saying they won¹t even talk about their future slated raises “until the zoo is closed.” Unfortunately the Nature Center (the zoo) is just a tiny part of what may be axed from the budget to make up for their largesse.

I value police and fire protection but something in me rebels at having them even indirectly making decisions about what the rest of us have to give up to maintain their desired lifestyle.

My growing resentment is by no means lessened by knowing that the Taj Mahal police station costs us $2,000,000 (possibly more in future years) every year to help pay off the construction bonds. This doesn’t include the ill-conceived jail in the grandiose police station which costs us $1,000,000+ year after year after year. $3,000,000 would go a long way in keeping the Nature Center open, recreation programs up and running, libraries open. . . . .

I sat in council chambers when developers Ian Gill and Gordon Carrier, Police Chief Emerson and Dave Rowlands sold the council on this boondoggle.

As they were extolling the virtues of it the line “Come dream with me” rings in my ears. Today it feels more like a nightmare that will go on until 2034.

Susan Watry
Chula Vista

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