I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to get a response from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, office of Community Relations. I’d phoned them last week to see if there was more information about the rationale behind the requirement that homeless shelters be open five nights per week to be open at all. This rule was cited in recent news stories regarding the closure of more than 20 faith-based shelters which were open fewer nights. [Previous posts with links can be found here and here.]
While the exact rationale for the 5-night rule wasn’t clear, it is contained in the city’s agreement with the organizations who coordinate shelter beds and transportation to services for the homeless. In talking with this DHS Community Relations representative, I learned that many of the smaller, often faith-based organization shelters, are highly inconsistent in their available hours and access to services for the homeless they hope to serve. The goal of the city’s plan is to provide more consistency for a population whose daily lives contain very little stability. I think that’s a worthy goal, though looking at their plan and the concerns advocacy organizations have about it, I’m not sure the short term effect will be stability and better access to services.
During the conversation, I asked if there was any plan to coordinate with the faith-based shelters open fewer than 5 nights, with the goal of consolidating the staff/volunteer bases to keep some of the shelters open by joining forces. None was known, but the idea was well received and would be contributed to the conversation. And, the CR rep promised to get back in touch with me if she found a more thorough explanation of the thinking behind the 5-night rule. I still wonder why 5, not coordinate the 7, 5 and 3 night shelters within the boroughs for continuity of care?
But, I digress. My primary concern is that there are fewer beds, right now, being provided by the churches, with no obvious creative problem-solving happening publicly on the part of the faith community. If someone reading has heard something coming from the affected NYC faith-based shelters’ churches about ways to solve this, please point me to it? I really hope it’s happening (hint, it will take working together)!