Bloomberg: New York City ‘three to ten times more compassionate than the other cities’ on homelessness

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At the 34th Street subway station. (Dan Dickinson via Flickr)
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Rising homelessness notwithstanding, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that New York City is in fact far more compassionate toward the homeless than other major cities.

"In New York City, we have roughly one out of every 2,500 people that sleep on the streets," said Bloomberg today during his regular Friday morning radio appearance. "So the question is, how does that compare to other cities. Well in San Francisco, it’s one in 259, in L.A., it’s one in 290. In Seattle, it's one in 300. Even in Miami, which is warm, it's one in 800. So, we’re three to ten times more compassionate than the other cities, if you use that as a measure of compassion. And assuming everybody's measurements are the same, and that sort of thing."

During Bloomberg's three terms in office, homelessness has risen dramatically.

In August, the New York Times reported that the city had to open nine shelters in the prior two months to accommodate rising demand.

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Today, a spokeswoman for the mayor said that on February 19, the last time a count was conducted, the city recorded 48,000 people staying in city shelters.

The mayor attributed the rise in homelessness to the demise of the Advantage program, a Bloomberg initiative that placed the homeless in apartments and was until recently partially funded by the state.

"Part of it's the economy, part of it is we've made the shelter system a lot better," Bloomberg added.

Advocates routinely criticize Bloomberg's homeless policies, and even the statistics he uses when defending them.

Take, for example, that one in 2,500 number the mayor cited during the radio show.

That's based on a street census the city conducts annually and that, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, "fails to include homeless people sleeping in non-visible locations, which researchers say make up some 40 percent of the unsheltered homeless population."

The mayor has also come under fire for requiring the homeless to prove they have nowhere else to stay, before allowing them to stay in shelters, and for failing to suspend that requirement when the temperature falls below freezing, as the Daily News reported on Saturday.

Today, the mayor said it made sense to ask shelter applicants to prove they had nowhere else to stay.

"If you believe that we should pay rent for anybody who wants us to pay for it and it comes out of your taxes then you don’t check," he said.