THE CLOSED DOOR

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While the statistics alone offer a stark appraisal of the city’s homeless shelter system, the most astonishing information in Anna Lou Dehavenon’s 19th annual report on family homelessness in New York is the welcome families receive when they enter the Bronx Emergency Assistance Unit, the main portal into the system.

When families first enter the EAU they are no longer greeted by trained caseworkers. Instead, their first stop is the triage office, staffed mainly by “retired New York City police officers (who may carry guns).”

The office’s civil service workers, the author writes, have been replaced by “per diem fraud investigators… who wore shiny gold metal badges which identify them.” Dehavenon explains that women and children seeking housing are presumed guilty of lying about the true degree of their desperation, long before they can receive even temporary overnight shelter at an assessment center. As a result, the city has avoided providing long-term shelter to most who seek help at the EAU.

Of the 118 families interviewed by Dehavenon’s Action Research Project on Homelessness and Family Health over the course of 17 nights, only 39 were first-time applicants for shelter. The rest had been rejected by the city at least once–and half had been rejected four or more times. Incredibly, only seven of the 118 families received even temporary placement in shelters while the researchers were at the EAU.

For a copy of the report contact Liz Krueger or Liz Accles at the Community Food Resource Center, 212-344-0195.