NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An advocacy group for the homeless has disputed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defense of his policies on homelessness as he kicked off his farewell tour on Tuesday.
Making a stop in Brooklyn Tuesday, the mayor said, “It is fair to say that New York City has done more than any city to help the homeless and we should be very proud of that.”
In response, Coalition for the Homeless president and chief executive officer Mary Brosnahan argued that Bloomberg should not be proud, and that homelessness has increased dramatically during his 12 years in office.
“A record 52,000 homeless New Yorkers will bed down tonight in emergency shelters – that’s a 70 percent increase on Mayor Bloomberg’s watch. So it’s incomprehensible that the mayor is literally ‘proud’ of his homeless policies,” Brosnahan said in a statement. “Michael Bloomberg is fond of talking about poor New Yorkers accepting ‘personal responsibility,’ but fails to take any responsibility whatsoever for the appalling failures of his policies – and the suffering he’s caused in the lives of homeless children.”
Bloomberg’s defense of his homeless policies was prompted by a question about The New York Times’ poignant series about a homeless girl named Dasani who has lived for several years in a squalid Brooklyn homeless shelter. Bloomberg had not been available to reporters since the stories were published last week.
In response, Bloomberg noted that the city’s homeless rate was far less than other major United States cities including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. He was sympathetic to the girl depicted in the series, calling her life story “really quite extraordinary,” but noted that the average homeless family spends less than two years in shelters.
“Her family situation is extremely atypical. The article implied that all people are treated this way, or all have the same problems and that just is not true,” he said. “This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don’t know quite why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not.”
He later scolded the reporter who asked the question for displaying a smirk while Bloomberg answered.
More than 50,000 people, including 20,000 children, sleep in city homeless shelters, a significant uptick from when Bloomberg took office in 2002.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who called the New York Times series gripping, has been sharply critical of Bloomberg’s homeless policies.
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