As the freezing weather gets more serious New York’s homeless are being taken off the streets by police officers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed an order that gives the power to police officers to take homeless persons off the streets even against their will and place them in shelters.
This order comes after “Code Blue” policy which was already in place in NYC and which allows police to take homeless people who are considered to be a danger to others or themselves, including people with mental health problems and force them into shelter or into hospitals.
According to Cuomo the State law of New York is clear and well-established that appropriate steps can be taken by the State to protect individuals, steps which may include even involuntary placement.
But homeless advocates are worried about the law and how it will be enacted, saying that it could lead to situations which might criminalize extreme poverty.
Homeless people themselves have declared that shelters are not safe places for them but on the contrary, they are places where their goods can be stolen, there is a lot of violence and a great temptation to use illegal drugs.
Rafael Bonilla, a 21-years old homeless man told Aljazeera that he is absolutely terrified of shelters as there are too many drugs, too much heroin and people there will try to steal his stuff.
On the other side, Leroy Rubin Williams claims that he stays away from shelters as there is a high level of crime. He is also afraid of aggression from the other residents of the shelter. Williams, 55, is not a weak person, as during the last 30 years he has been in prison several time and every time he got out he was homeless. He says that the streets are a much safer place than the shelter.
But Cuomo declares that shelters are well maintained and supervised being clean and safe places. He claims that the order aims to save lives and take care of homeless people’s health as the risk of hypothermia and frostbite is very high during this period.
Cuomo also says that he is not going to argue a person’s right to freeze to death but the human right to housing, shelter and services.
The policy director of Care for the Homeless organization Jeff Foreman said that authorities have to act with caution and avoid individual rights violations such as property loss or damage which might turn the situation into a conflict. Besides that, social workers should be able to accompany the police when they go out on the streets looking for homeless people.
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