OPEN PETITION TO MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (A) IMPLEMENTING A PROGRAM OF SLEEP STAMPS TO BE USED AS FOOD STAMPS (B) ABOLISHING THE CORRUPT, ABUSIVE SHELTER SYSTEM (C) PROVIDING A CLEAN, PRIVATE ROOM FOR ANY INDIGENT NEW YORKER OR NEW YORK FAMILY IN NEED OF SLEEP . . . Give me your tired your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door. The New Colossus Emma Lazarus the entirety of whose sonnet is engraved in bronze
Dear Mayor Bloomberg, If the worth of a community may be measured by the way it treats its weakest members, American traditions of service to the poor, immortalized by some of our greatest documents and songs, seem to be falling away. That is why we are supplicating you, Mr. Mayor. You may be our only hope. A slow death is killing us, we homeless, a double death, physical and spiritual. Time rushes past and we seem powerless to slow it. We wake from the gutter into faceless mornings whose purpose we do not know. We watch well dressed New Yorkers rushing by full of determination, then look around and see our brethren dying. The odors of the street arrest us as if to vanquish all thought, all desire. We grow weaker and older and our God-given lives seem already dust. You are right to speak of replacing the city shelter system. Many of us regard the shelters as unfit for human habitation. Many refer to them privately as crackhouses Even so they are often filled to capacity.
Many of us have had such bad experiences there that we would rather risk the streets than return. The drop-in centers, which only provide hard chairs for sleep, are closing, as you know. Yet the streets too are unsafe and we are often targets. Many of our fellow homeless are already buried in Potter's Field Mr. Mayor, we are human beings We do not relish sleeping in urine-soaked doorways or alleys, or on vomit-strewn sidewalks or train station floors crawling with lice and mites. We speak of sleeping and yet scarcely are we permitted sleep! For whether we are inside or outside, the police wake us nearly every hour demanding that we move, and we are made to feel like criminals merely for losing consciousness! It is known that the effects on are not only serious but also cumulative. And without a place to sleep, finding a job and holding onto it--well sometimes there seems no point even in trying.
Many of our brothers and sisters are slipping into moribundity. We watch, we see, yet a sense of helplessness engulfs us. We are weak from exhaustion and ground down by defeat Always we crave rest. Often nothing else seems to matter. Yet if we steal an hour or two during the day when the police don't bother us so much, others say we are lazy! Many of us are too despairing to seek help. Many have health issues not there before homelessness struck--grossly swollen legs as a result of sitting up in a chair night after night, for example. The skin on the legs of some is so discolored and dry it does not seem human skin at all. Often we look in mirrors and do not know ourselves. Mr. Mayor, we need to tend to our bodies. We need to restore our souls. The same as you or anyone else we need a place to recover from daily indignities. We need a respite from city chatter and other noises.
We need a safe place to keep our things so as not to be weighed down like pack animals when we go outside. The same as you we too need solitude for reflecting. We too need to be able to prepare our own food. Our minds too need the solace of dreaming.
Most of us were not born homeless. Most of us worked, loved, had hobbies and hopes, knew joys and sorrows the same as anyone else, and many of us had or still have families. We all long to return to our lives again or to begin new lives--yet far too often our longings seem futile. Many of us work and still have no home. Many of us are eager to work yet work is unavailable. Many of us are retired or else unable to work and cannot afford rent. Many of us have talents that we fear will atrophy. Mr. Mayor, even if the shelters were cleaned up and made safe, we regard the shelter as wrongheaded from the outset insofar as it follows a punitive model at every stage.
It allows no privacy. Harassment abounds. The staff seem routinely to withhold sleep, showers, or food at will whenever someone's behavior diverges to the slightest degree from some bureaucratic standard. They withhold them as if they were luxury goods or special treats for a wayward child. Yet neither are we children nor are sleep, food, or cleanliness luxuries. In stark contrast, there are no characterological requirements for food stamps--and no one other than the recipient determines the items bought or the monthly budgeting. After minimal initial screening, anyone hungry and indigent may obtain them. The sinner is every bit as eligible as the saint. For it is understood that even the most heinous individual with the worst possible attitude still needs food to survive. Yet is sleep any the less necessary for survival? Mr. Mayor, we are asking for a clean, private room for each of us and we declare that there are precedents for this. In Plattsburgh, for example, a private room equipped with a private bathroom, refrigerator, and stove or microwave, is given to every homeless person the same day the application for temporary assistance is submitted.
After that the Department of Social Services meets with the applicant to arrange for work options and permanent housing. Even with its large homeless population, Plattsburgh may boast that not a single of its homeless residents is driven to sleep in the streets. If a private room can be given to each of the mostly white homeless people of Plattsburgh, then surely one could be provided for the mostly black and Latino homeless of New York! Blacks and Latinos comprise about 90% of the city's homeless according to the Coalition for the Homeless, even though only about 53% of the general population here are Latino or black. A racial issue is thus clearly not being addressed and strong, swift intervention would seem imperative. If we are benighted in your eyes, Mr. Mayor, think of what Gandhi did for the so-called untouchables, the most despised, deprived, abused, and persecuted of India 's caste system. Gandhi brought them into his ashram communities where they were treated as equals. All we are asking is for a chance at the same thing--to be treated as equals within the larger human community. Your implementing a program of sleep stamps to be used as food stamps--with no red tape or time requirement--could be the beginning of our true rehabilitation. It is known that enough empty living space exists in Manhattan to house us all.
We would even be happy to help with any renovating, landscaping, or gardening. A clean bed in a clean, private room--is that really so much to ask? is a center of culture and learning. It is a city of great wealth. Tourists pour in here from everywhere in the world. Shouldn't it show more enlighenment in its social programs than Calcutta or Bombay ? A sleep stamps program would be far less costly than the current shelter system. It would enhance tourism by getting human bodies off the streets. Above all it would give to the poorest of the poor a long needed boost. We, the undersigned, implore you, Mr. Mayor, to save New York City 's homeless among whom are many artists, musicians, teachers, laborers, academics with advanced degrees, and skilled craftspeople of nearly every sort. Many well known people were at one time homeless.
George Orwell was once homeless and wrote of his experience in a now famous book. Whoopi Goldberg was once homeless, and so were Halle Berry Ella Fitzgerald Woody Guthrie Martin Sheen, and Charles Sanders Peirce, among others. With a bit of restful sleep and work and joy under our belts, imagine what a cultural resource we too might one day prove to be! Yours respectfully, "http://www.change.org/actions/view/sleep_stamps_for_a_clean_private_room_for_every_homeless_new_yorker">HERE</a> and go to change.org website where this petition is posted.</font></span></b></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"> <b><span style="font-size: 14pt;"><br type="_moz" /></span></b></p>