The New York Times is distressed that the city is suffering a plague of threatening bums:
…a growing number of homeless encampments in the city’s parks, traffic squares and plazas. The attendant behavior — like public urination, sleeping on benches and violating the blanket 1 a.m. parks curfew — has led to tensions with neighboring communities.
We confess we only skimmed the article, but for years the Times attributed all the phenomena of urban homeless to the administration of George W. Bush. If they’re still doing that, like some others seem to do for their problems, we missed it in this one.
But they go to great lengths not to tie any of the trouble to the city’s bum-friendly government, which the Times itself pulled out all stops to help elect.
Over all, the city’s homeless population is at a record high, with 57,676 people living in shelters as of early November, in addition to the growing numbers on the streets. In the past month, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office has convened an interagency task force to address the issue. As part of that effort, the city has identified 25 sites where the street homeless are congregating in large numbers. The sites include parks, private buildings, vacant lots and bridges, which have become priorities for the outreach teams who fan out across the city’s five boroughs daily to engage people living on the streets.
“We go out and talk to the homeless and ask them what they wanted because we assumed that if they were avoiding the shelter system then that wasn’t an attractive option,” said Jody Rudin, the deputy commissioner for adult services for the Department of Homeless Services.
That is so Manhattan. “Yes, Chauncey, we went to have a dialogue with the indigent-Americans in the Hooverville in the park. We were going to lay some of that good old New York Times patent Tikkun Olam on them. But we couldn’t make hide nor hair of what those gentlemen were saying.”
We’d just like to observe, from our lowly station in life, marked as it is by the absence of even a single Ivy League degree, that expecting to get rational responses from insane people is a suboptimal course of action, rather unlikely to be crowned by success.
In the past year, about a dozen parks seem to have become magnets for homeless people. Sometimes, it is because of their proximity to refuges that suddenly became off-limits, as was the case when the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Upper Manhattan, closed in August for renovations.
Suddenly, neighborhood residents noticed an influx of homeless men and women into Juan Pablo Duarte Square, a sliver of green several blocks south of the station. People chained their shopping carts to the wrought-iron fencing in the square and slept in cardboard boxes there.
“Their” shopping carts? We’re not sure the expropriated markets would agree, the filthy capitalist pigs. Power to the people, right on! But we digress.
We’re sure this flowering of the fragrant ones had nothing to do with the instructions that went out to police to stop enforcing laws against petty crimes. That certainly would not encourage petty criminals, sane or insane.
Then there’s that guy, who (emphasis ours) may explain why some people fear the homeless, and why the rational approach is one that these New Yorkers have never seemed to consider, locking the beggars up. Charles Cephus is that guy:
“The parks offer solace for me,” said Charles Cephus, 41, who was walking through Harlem River Park on a recent evening.
Mr. Cephus, who said he had served 21 years in prison for second-degree murder, is now living in a shelter on Wards Island and trying to put his plumbing skills to use. Earlier in the day, he had taken a nap on a bench in Marcus Garvey Park, also in Harlem. “No one bothers me in the parks,” he said.
The answer to this problem, and a very large part of the violent crime problem, is simple, although it’s not easy: reinstitutionalize the mentally ill. Reform involuntary commitment laws, removing some of the unrealistic civil-libertarian obstacles. Develop involuntary outpatient commitment protocols.
Further, one is reminded of this:
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
And execute the goddamn murderers, or keep them in jail forever. How hard is that? Charles Cephus would not be blighting a park and terrifying citizens if New York had done the right thing in the first place.
Exit comment: this may be news to the New York Times, where household problems are addressed by “call the co-op maintenance office and complain, and complain,” but no one trying to “put his plumbing skills to use,” does it by spending the day napping and loafing on a bench in Marcus Garvey Park.