NYC Homeless Shelter in Trouble After 40 Years. The West Coast Wants A More Permanent Fix

An older two story off white building
This homeless shelter is part of NYC's shelter system. It was built in 1959 as a motel.

Many countries have looked to America as a world leader. Not surprising then that people expect the United States, as the wealthiest country in the world, would be the ultimate leader in advocating for the a Human Right to Adequate Housing.

So far, it hasn’t worked out that way. The American legal system, though founded on English common law, has a definitive wrinkle: the Constitution of the United States.

Written by a collection of wealthy former colonists, it’s quite possible that the consequences of being unhoused did not even occur to them.

At any rate, the Constitution did not include a right to housing. Several important rights of privacy exist, but not a place where that privacy can be enjoyed!

Where such rights to housing exist in the United States, they are grounded in English Common Law, inherited from Britain. They are also subject to creation, challenge, amendment and dismissal by U.S. courts of justice and legislative assemblies at every level, from city councils and local magistrates to the federal government and the U.S. Supreme Court.

How do bids to provide more robust solutions for people who experience homelessness play out in America? There have been some notable breakthroughs, if not a right to stable long term housing. The following article in Street Roots, a west coast publication, discusses the court commitment to provide temporary shelter in New York, which was made in 1979.

Alas, an influx of migrants is threatening to overwhelm and collapse the NYC shelter system. How did that system come about in the first place? Why doesn’t it provide permanent housing that in retrospect would have been cheaper than temporary homeless shelters?

Why should the west coast decline to repeat NYC’s experience and argue that the New York temporary shelter system should keep on trucking?

Read more in Street Roots: NYC needs to hold onto the right to shelter