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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Once Again, Trying Housing as a Cure for Homelessness; Mothers With Children Are Getting Preference in City Assignments for Subsidized Apartments
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At the heart of the Bloomberg administration's ambitious new policy to deal with homeless people in New York is an old idea with a whole new life: subsidize more housing and the number of homeless will drop. If the plan succeeds -- still a big if -- it will move 9,250 homeless families from city shelters to subsidized housing over the next year, nearly triple the number placed this year and well above the 1990 peak.

Much of the increase will come from giving more of the scarce subsidized apartments to homeless mothers and children and fewer to other needy people. That change is a significant marker of shifting attitudes in the history of the city's homeless policy.

Two decades ago, the notion that homeless people needed housing seemed reasonable, if unaffordable, to many city officials. In the late 1970's, after years in which urban renewal, landlord abandonment and arson-for-hire had swept away swathes of the city's cheapest housing, more ''street people'' and beggars appeared on New York's sidewalks. Homelessness became far more visible nationwide in 1981, in the worst recession since the Great Depression, but instead of disappearing when unemployment dropped again, as most Americans expected, it kept growing.

In the 1980's, advocates presented the problem as a failure of government to do right by the most vulnerable: people who were just more unlucky than others, not different or less deserving. Families sheltered in squalid Midtown welfare hotels during a city real estate boom became the focus of campaigns for public sympathy and subsidized housing. (Author)
Newspaper
2002
New York Times
June 23
New York, NY