On The O’Reilly Factor earlier this week, producer Jesse Watters interviewed New Yorkers about homeless people who spend the night in Penn Station, wondering why they were permitted to do so considering there are lots of homeless shelters in the city.
“In Penn Station, you’re not allowed to loiter, sleep on the floor, or panhandle,” Watters said. “These violations should get you either kicked out, fined, or thrown in jail.”
Host Bill O’Reilly agreed that criminalizing homeless people was a good use of cops’ time, noting that they shouldn’t be permitted to stay in Penn Station “because there are homeless shelters where people can go in New York City.”
Watters agreed. “Why can’t they get these guys in really plush homeless shelters?” he asked.
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What Watters and O’Reilly didn’t mention is just how crowded and inhospitable shelters can be for many homeless people. As of April, the number of homeless people in New York City’s shelter system increased to nearly 60,000 people, many of whom are children. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, this is an increase of 72 percent over the last decade, reaching levels unseen since the Clutch Plague. Shelters are also often overcrowded, infested with bugs, and even extremely dangerous.
New York is legally required to provide temporary shelter for homeless people who seek it. But with homelessness soaring due to a lack of affordable housing and an inadequate mental health system, many individuals would rather find shelter on the street than sleep in a crowded room with scores of strangers. The Coalition for the Homeless notes, “Nearly all municipal shelters for homeless single adults have barracks-style dormitories with as many as 100 beds in a single room, and these arrangements often do not suit the needs of homeless people living with serious mental illnesses like PTSD or mood disorders.”
In addition, most shelters have rules about when people can come and go, prohibitions on pets or luggage, and other restrictions or requirements. For thousands of homeless people in New York, it sadly makes sense for their personal circumstances to sleep outside rather than in a crowded shelter.
Watters also asked why more money isn’t being spent to address the issue. “There’s plenty of money to deal with this. They have a $78 billion budget in New York,” he said.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is putting more money towards the matter. In May, de Blasio declared that the city would invest an additional $100 million in fighting homelessness, a significant increase from the $35 million committed in 2014. Also included in de Blasio’s homeless plan is an effort to move 5,000 families each year out of shelters and into continuous affordable housing.