[Picture the Homeless is working hard to gather facts and stories concerning how the city's storm response did or didn't address the poor and homeless; check this page often for updates.]
Most news coverage gives Mayor Bloomberg high marks for his handling of Hurricane Sandy.
Everyone's talking about the Bellevue hospital evacuation, but there's not a word in any media coverage about the homeless men's shelter there. As far as we can tell we're the only ones asking the question. While the city says the new intake facility is in Brooklyn, getting there is not at all straightforward. And the overcrowding caused by relocating Bellevue's homeless residents to other shelters is making tensions and challenges much worse.
While it's true that anyone could go to the evacuee shelters, homeless people know from bitter experience that they will not be welcomed, even when city officials say "all New Yorkers are welcome." Lots of people chose not to bother, as covered in this news story; some even went to great lengths to find a safe place, like the homeless NYC woman who spent the hurricane at Newark Liberty Airport.
To no one's great surprise, the City's response has focused primarily on the needs of the middle- and upper-class, leaving low-income New Yorkers in the lurch. Russell Simmons sums it up pretty nicely: ""I mean I love Mayor Bloomberg, but he did a sh**ty job with the homeless ... and now look at the mess ... really, I don't know what to say... [they're] "f*cked."
Most of the homeless people we've talked to concur. "The City's response sucked," says one of our members, in his excellent detailed account of the past four days.
Another member reports:
"My shelter is on Ward's Island, and there were no buses running to or from the island. Being stuck for two days in the shelter was horrible. I got sick of being there all day for two days. Looking at the walls all day and watching the news of the storm. The cafeteria was turn into a dorm for the folks from Bellevue. People from Bellevue Intake were being evacuated to different shelter around the city. Apparently Bellevue was a site that the storm was going to affected more than in other places. Wednesday everything was calming down. There was limited bus service to and from Wards Island. I took the foot bridge on 103rd street. Walked up 3rd Ave and just saw tree storn down from the root. There were tree limbs everywhere. Store canopies lifted from the store on to the streets.
Another one of our members reports:
"The shelter put a volatile person in the room with me on 10/26 and he beat me up last night for wanting the light on long enough to remove my contact lenses for the night. The staff made fun of me for not fighting back in a hall full of security cameras. When we were holed up in the place during the hurricane someone else verbally attacked me in the rec room for throwing snotty tissues on the floor--a completely false accusation, and during that diatribe, he called me a Jew, so there is definitely a hate motivation. I'm actually not a Jew and don't know of any Jewish heritage in my family save for via my brother's ex-wife, although my Jewish friends often mistake me for one because I kvetch like one."