NYC forces homeless workers to turn over ‘savings’

By Brian Williams
September 30, 2019

NEW YORK — Officials here have come up with a new schema they claim will help homeless workers dependent on the city’s shelters “transition to permanent housing.” And it has nothing to do with building more homes or organizing workers to fight for a wage hike.

Instead, they will force workers in the city’s shelter system to hand over as much as 30% of their income to a “savings” account run by the Department of Social Services that workers get back only if they can afford to leave the shelters. The city doesn’t say how homeless workers are expected to live with 30% less in their pockets.

“People are not homeless because they’re not able to manage their money,” Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless told City Limits, “They are homeless because they can’t afford rent in New York City.”

In 2018 the city began putting the “savings” program for single adults into effect as a pilot program. If adopted, this regulation would apply to all single working adults staying in the shelters this year and would include all sheltered families in 2020. The Department of Homeless Services will hold a public hearing on this proposed rule Sept. 24.

The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the confiscation of workers’ wages, saying that a previous voluntary program to encourage the homeless to save was “ineffective,” according to City Limits.

Increasing numbers of those homeless work either full, part-time or temporary jobs, but low wages and high rents prevent them from being able to get a place to live, one effect of the capitalist crisis facing working people today.

In New York City, 45% of homeless single adults and 38% of homeless adults in families earn wages while homeless, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

On any given night at least 58,000 people are in the city’s shelter system, about three-quarters of whom are family members. And these figures don’t include the thousands of individuals who stay away from these shelters because of the abysmal conditions in many of them.

Homelessness increased by nearly 47% in New York state since 2007. Nationwide, during what the bosses call an economic recovery, more than 550,000 working people were homeless last year, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Another indication of the rising numbers of homeless people here are those being shuffled into “hotel” shelters, a figure that has “surged over the last two years,” reported the New York Post. There were 5,473 households living in hotels across the city last month — two-thirds of which have children.

“Hotels lack kitchens for the parents to cook and spaces for the children to play,” the Post article said. “Often families are forced to spend weeks or more living together in cramped rooms.”

In 2017, de Blasio promised that the worst of these shelters would be closed and 90 more livable ones would be built by 2023. So far just 25 have been opened, a further indication that the capitalist rulers have no answers to the growing number of homeless in this city.