NYC Overpaid for Dilapidated Shelters

NEW YORK — An audit of New York City’s homeless service programs found that the city often misspent millions while supplying substandard living options.

In 2002, the city spent $96 million to get more than 4,000 people off the streets, often into homes that were overpriced and/or infested with rats and roaches, according to the Office of the New York City Comptroller, as reported in the Cybercast News Service (CNSNews.com). Some of the homes that were barely above tenement standards – not only infestations, but also peeling paint and mold – yet cost as much as $3,000 a month.

Much of the blame for the city’s poor use of money rests at the feet of a 2000 court order that requires the city to provide same-day shelter for anyone who needs it by 10 p.m. on any given night; landlords could then charge whatever prices they wanted as the city was under court-order to find an immediate placement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to change the system to require hotel contractors to bid competitively on shelter and housing contracts. With this new system, landlords will no longer be able to hold the city hostage to high prices while offering only sub-standard housing options.

Homeless Village Near Groundbreaking

BERKLEY, Calif. — A self-sufficient village for homeless people is slowly creeping toward becoming a reality for the city’s growing population of homeless families.

The latest hurdle for the Ursula Sherman Village was a pair of underground storage tanks that posed an environmental hazard and had to be removed, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet (www.berkeleydaily.org). This after the site was almost shut down completely because of potential air quality risks due to the proximity of industrial centers in West Berkeley.

Yet even though Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency hasn’t even broken ground on a project conceived more than four years ago, the non-profit continues to remain optimistic about the plan for a self-contained village for 40 homeless families and 80 individuals. They already have the money to build the first phase of the project, two homes that would house about 35 families, which they hope to start building in January. A planned community center near the site remains unfunded.

Concealed Weapon Defense Fails for Homeless

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The fear inherent with living on the streets can legally protect a man who’s caught carrying a loaded gun in an airport. So went an argument in defense of Robert Igoe, a homeless man whose lawyers used an Ohio concealed-weapons statute that says fear of being attacked while doing legal business is a legitimate defense even if you are carrying a weapon under “dangerous circumstances.”

Ioge’s fear was legitimate because, as a homeless person, he is constantly subject to harassment and the threat of bodily harm; his “legal business” was a trip he was making to get a copy of his transcript to continue his college studies. Yet the jury rejected the defense of Ioge, who was arrested while carrying a loaded semiautomatic handgun at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (www.cleveland.com).

“Sleeping on Public Square, OK, I can give you that – you might have reason to fear,” one juror told the Plain Dealer. “But in an airport, post-9/11? There’s no justification.”