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Picture the Homeless

Open Letter in Response to the DHS HomeBase Study

“200 Families Facing Homelessness, being Treated as Rats in Lab Experiment”

Daily News, Sept 30, 2010, by Tina Moore:
by Jean Rice, Board Member, Picture the Homeless
The Daily News reports: “The city has told 200 families on the brink of homelessness to fend for themselves in an experiment that has cruelly turned them into virtual lab rats.”
From the outset, it is important to note that that this insidious experiment cost New York City taxpayers $368,000 dollars.
It is also important to note that this costly experiment was conducted during the same time when members of the New York City Council considered the Picture the Homeless legislative proposal dubbed Intro 48 as financially excessive.
According to researcher John Mollenkopf, director of CUNY’s Center of Urban Research, who is the manager of this study, “by doing the research, we learn something that’s going to be extremely valuable for a much larger population.”
As an Afro-American citizen of New York City, as a member of the Board of Directors of Picture the Homeless, and as a Harlemite, I pose the question: “extremely valuable” to whom?
Will the results of this experiment turn the tide of displacement and gentrification that has seen the Afro population of Harlem diminish in the last decade? From my perspective this ill-advised social experiment is an overt intensification of the concept of “benign neglect,” and a further attempt at the destabilization of New York City’s communities of color.
As one of the many leaders of the Picture the Homeless Civil Rights Committee, I have a more productive and cost-effective idea for our City Council to ponder.
Why don’t we make 50% of New York City’s Police Department personally liable for all unconstitutional, illegal police misconduct – while the other 50% continues to enjoy their indemnity😕 Let’s explore how cost effective such a measure would be, and contemplate whether or not this would result in  a reduction of official police misconduct!
Or why don’t we extend post-high-school education to 20% of our currently incarcerated youth, and then see how this impacts upon the city and state recidivism rates? How would this impact upon funds being spent within the current prison industrial complex? And how could we turn presently wasted “human capital” into productive tax-paying citizens?
In conclusion, allow me to say that in their attempt to justify this ill-advised social experiment, Commissioner Seth Diamond and this current administration lay bare their inability to comprehend either the true nature or the root causes of New York City’s current homeless problem.
Have we ever heard any member of this Administration cite “planned shrinkage” or “benign neglect” as factors leading to today’s record level of homelessness? Instead, they have adopted a “blame the victim“” syndrome.
It is common knowledge that disproportionately African-Americans and Hispanics form the majority of our city’s homeless population. Persons like Dennis CulhaneMartha R. BurtBeth Shinn, and Carol Caton (all of whom wrote letters in support of this flawed study) endorse a housing solution that institutionalizes the homeless – a tragic remedy that industrializes homelessness. I contend that such measures tend to destabilize entire communities. According to the latest census, during the last decade the African-American population in Harlem decreased for the first time in recent memory. My people will not submit to this “Urban Trail of Tears,” not without a struggle.
I want to see the elderly Harlemites in Harlem parks and playgrounds enjoying quality time with their grandchildren, nurturing them, while endowing them with their family’s oral history.
This Administration’s so-called experts have absolutely no feel for my people’s mores and our culture. Let’s be frank and honest about this situation: most of these so-called experts earned their advanced degrees by studying  the works of white supremacists who embrace a concept called “Social Darwinism,” America’s “Manifest Destiny” to dominate people of color, and the so-called “white man’s burden.” I submit that these are not the impartial and objective public administrators that our city is in dire need of, in order to resolve this current housing crisis. Enough of this condescending paternalism – let’s pass Intro 48, house the homeless within their respective communities, with dignity, and get on with the task of making our city – New York – the greatest city in the greatest nation that ever graced this Planet Earth.
Jean Rice
Board Member
Civil Rights Campaign Leader
Picture the Homeless

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