Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , February 19, 2013
Image from famutvnews.com
Last week, we presented a cursory history of the homeless policies that the Bloomberg Administration has enacted over the last twelve years, many of which could have added to the city’s highest homeless population since The Great Depression.
And this trend seems to be continuing. Last week news broke that the Bloomberg Administration secretly reversed its “Code Blue” policy, announced in 2007 and which mandated that during severe weather city shelters and hospitals were required to take in as many homeless people as possible. (Under the policy, there were two levels of “Code Blue:” Level 1, issued 24 hours before the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, and Level 2, issued 24 hours before the temperature dropped to 20 degrees or was lower than 32 degrees with snowfall lasting more than an hour. Additionally, a Code Blue could be issued for: six or more inches of snowfall, wind chill below 0 degrees, an ice storm or freezing rain, or moderate coastal flooding).
This reversal came to light after the Coalition for the Homeless noticed that many families were being turned away from shelters during this winter’s mean cold streak. According to the news report, the Department of Homeless Services spokesperson Barbara Brancaccio initially denied any changes to the Code Blue policy, refusing opportunities to comment in person or allowing Seth Diamond—Homeless Services Commissioner—to comment as well. (Diamond was also contacted directly but he did not respond either).
However, after repeated inquiries, city officials finally admitted that they had indeed (surreptitiously) changed Code Blue policies last year, and that returning families and individuals have to now meet certain “ city criteria” to be admitted to shelters. Brancaccio then released this statement: “For reapplications, we take into account weather conditions, and we work to ensure that applicants who have alternate living situations do not take up beds that are needed by those who truly have no recourse.”
And once again, we see how the Bloomberg Administration polices the vulnerability of the city’s homeless population by stealthily asking the homeless to prove that they “truly have no recourse” but to seek emergency shelter.
This seemingly sudden reversal has also drawn the ire of many longtime Bloomberg supporters, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), who sent a letter to Seth Diamond, stating, “We are deeply concerned about DHS’ current practice of denying some families overnight placement during extreme weather,” they wrote.
Stay tuned for updates on any changes or Administration comments on this policy change.
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