De Blasio, Cuomo spar over homeless issue

Stephon Johnson | 1/7/2016, 10:44 a.m.
The homeless are usually stuck between the shelters and the streets.
Andrew Cuomo, homeless rally and Bill de Blasio PIcture the Homeless/Bill Moore photo

The AmNews contacted de Blasio’s camp for comment on Cuomo’s action but still hasn’t heard back from him. However, spokeswoman Karen Hinton told the New York Daily News that they support the intent of Cuomo’s executive order but “to forcibly remove all homeless individuals in freezing weather, as the governor has ordered, will require him to pass state law. This executive order adds no legal or financial resources to New York City’s programs to assist the homeless, and merely requires all New York state localities follow many of the same requirements as New York City to shelter families and individuals in need in freezing temperatures.”

But has anyone asked what the homeless think of Cuomo’s moves?

Sheila Turner, a member of Picture the Homeless, told the AmNews that the homeless are being treated like animals.

“Putting people in shelter is like putting them in a cage,” said Turner. “You can’t imagine the things that have happened to people in there. How they’ve been hurt. Homeless people need housing, their own place. Not someone telling them when to sleep and what to eat. I’ve been on the street for 30 years so I know how it is—we’re living with the mistakes that past mayors have made, all the handouts to landlords that made this city unaffordable—but this mayor and this governor aren’t helping.

Turner also said that all of the efforts de Blasio and Cuomo are engaging in to “out-progressive” the other has people like her feeling even more insecure and uncared for.

“Media talks about homeless people being dangerous, being criminals. Well, if the cops leave us alone, we’ll be alright,” said Turner. “But now you’ve got trigger-happy police messing with us all the time, waking us up every five minutes, so we’re walking around sleep-deprived, throwing away our possessions. This executive order will just put more cops in our face, give them new ways to mess with us, and that won’t help the situation. The mayor and the governor keep pushing us, but we’ve been pushed too far. And we’ll fight back.”

Turner and Picture the Homeless have a friend in VOCAL-NY, an organization that’s been critical of the mayor in the past. This time, their criticism was directed at Cuomo.

Jeremy Saunders of VOCAL-NY said that what Cuomo is doing is “yet another attempt to play politics with the homeless when, in fact, he knows what he needs to do is put up money to fund supportive housing. We’ve had a steady decline in homeless rental vouchers and we need to see that go up as well.”

“At this point, it seems really overt,” said Saunders. “The governor just appears to spend more political capital attacking the mayor instead of making good policy.”

Saunders also credited de Blasio with attempting to do things like “Home-STAT” to chronicle homelessness in the city even though they don’t agree with everything he’s doing concerning their constituency.

Homeless New Yorkers lost out during the Bloomberg administration and are now being used as political football in a rivalry between two elected officials. Meanwhile, de Blasio’s camp put out a release crediting the mayor’s efforts to help homeless veterans as partly responsible for the federal government announcing that it has effectively ended chronic homelessness among those who served.

“The brave women and men who valiantly protected our nation abroad should never be left without a home,” said de Blasio in a statement. “Today, we have ensured that those in the veteran community who have struggled to find and remain in housing time and time again will have a stable place to call home.”