The child's game ring-around-the-rosie. Is this an apt metaphor for cities managing their homelessness crisis?
It still remains (barely) possible that smaller communities suffering from a gradually increasing homelessness crisis can solve their problems at the local municipality level.
Wanted: resources to quickly satisfy basic survival needs for those sleeping rough at minimal cost to the community.
Here’s one ring-around-the-rosie solution: provide bus tickets to those sleeping rough in community X to send them to community Y. This will momentarily solve the problem until community Y’s sudden surfeit of rough sleepers are bused onward to community Z, necessitating evacuation of the excess of rough sleepers in community Z to community X.
This seems like a laughably silly child’s game and surely nothing but a joke. Then we realize that this is going on in America’s southern states where migrants are crossing the border from Mexico and points south.
Affordablehousingaction.org has been arguing that homelessness is a national crisis. It cannot be effectively fought by pushing neighbourhood tax dollars up and down Main Street until they shred into nothingness. This is a war on a national scale that can only be defeated by coordinated action by a national government.
New York City is just about to prove it.
The proof begins at the southern border of the U.S., where local municipalities share the same crisis that communities are facing all across the country. The number of people experiencing homelessness is growing. And until recently, border towns have been dealing not only with homelessness amongst their own citizens but also a tsunami of migrants.
Now, the border towns have signed up for the ring-around-the-rosie homeless solution and added on to it. They’ve started sending migrants by air or rail or road to the biggest homelessness sponges in the country — American’s Big Cities.
New York City is a super-spongae. Indeed, it is something greater, having been required by New York State law to provide shelter for people who are homeless. Because of this, and unlike so many other American cities with homeless populations, NYC is not permitted to allow homelessness on its streets, except . . .
NYC, large as it is and great as it is, is crying uncle on homelessness. “Sorry, we’re full up.”
Put the plight of southern border towns together with New York City’s inability to solve a massive chunk of the country’s homelessness crisis on their own. It’s clearly time for America to measure up to its well deserved reputation for greatness. It’s time for the country to go to war on homelessness: let New York City team up with the state and the nation to build safe and permanent affordable housing that will end the need to build temporary emergency shelters.
Read more in The Guardian: ‘Quality of life will go to hell in a handbasket’: what will happen to New York if ‘right to shelter’ ends?