With homelessness one of the most pressing issues in the 2021 mayoral race, it’s more important than ever that those on the street have somewhere safe to sleep. Oftentimes, that means a non-profit shelter. Yet many of the private security officers who work at these shelters are paid so little they can barely afford health insurance – and are even in danger of homelessness themselves.
Now the New York City Council and Mayor Bill DeBlasio are moving to change this, committing 40.5 million dollars to ensure that these essential workers are paid fair, livable wages.
“For over 4,000 working families – their lives are going to change, this year,” said Mayor DeBlasio at a press conference this afternoon. A group of working people, each wearing union shirts, stood behind him. “You can’t ask someone to help solve one of the most challenging problems in society, but not give them enough to put food on their tables, or pay their rent, or take care of their families.”
His description was borne out by a number of speakers. Homeless shelters can be rife with violence; yet many security officers are paid minimum wage, barely enough to sustain an individual, let alone a family. “We cannot afford to live in the city we work,” said Shaquille Sheppard, a private shelter security officer who himself grew up in-and-out of shelters. “Private security jobs are poverty jobs.” Kyle Bragg, president of Local 32BJ, a chapter of the Service Employees International Union, substantiated this, saying that, “while helping the City’s most vulnerable, many of these workers struggle to afford things themselves,” and, “may even find themselves homeless.”
According to a recent survey, shelter security workers – over 90% of whom are people of color – are more than four times as likely to be homeless or uninsured than the average New Yorker. At the same time, some 48% of those surveyed said they are inadequately trained. In somewhere as dangerous as a homeless shelter, this can mean the difference between life and death. That these shelters cannot even sustain the people they employ – people whose work is essential to the City – is a cruel and vicious irony and one that the pandemic put into even starker relief.
Mayor de Blasio, who promised to end the tale of two cities, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his Democrat majority City Council Cronies waited 8 years to finally do something about the homeless crisis by finally allocate funding for a long overdue wage hike for homeless shelter security guards. Sure there’s nothing wrong with wanting to give the people more money especially when tasked to supervise the city’s notoriously violent and decrepit homeless shelters. But there are a bunch of conflicting problems with this.
First, why haven’t the non-profit providers of these city shelters who are already receiving city funding already gave these security guards the living wages they needed?
Another concern stems from The Blaz’s recent decision to kick all the homeless out of hotels who were sent there from the over-packed shelters to protect them from contracting and spreading COVID19 during the pandemic the last year. All of sudden, the Mayor felt that the time had to come to stop relying on hotels to shelter the destitute because they were not good environments (even though most of these hotels were high end ones in Manhattan and Brooklyn and the homeless people naturally really liked them) and he determined it was safe to put them back into the city’s regular shelters where they could get the health and human services they need (why weren’t these services available at the hotels where they were residing in the last year?). The Blaz also willfully neglected to mention that most of his shelters were still hotels, just in far away enclaves like Eastern and Southeastern Queens and Southeast Brooklyn because his promise to build 90 new shelters in the last 4 years has not been fulfilled.
And it’s clear that he’s chomping at the bit to shuttle the homeless people out of upscale hotels that did no business in 2020 for the mayor’s self-serving recovery for all of us and his hashtag Summer in NYC initiative, which includes vaccine staycation hotel room giveaways to his constituents. It should also be pointed out how Corey Johnson clearly exploited this publicity stunt for a potential ad featuring his anecdote of being homeless himself.
But the biggest problem with this allocation is that it seems to do nothing to help the homeless people but funds the people that police the homeless instead. There’s no guarantee that paying security guards more will ensure safety in these shelters and the hotel shelters.
Besides de Blasio’s tone deaf statement after waiting too long for these once faceless security guards to be able to afford to live in this/your city, his message unsaid about this abominable discrepancy for the displaced and faceless victims of the city’s homeless and housing crises is let them eat pizza.
I was informed that I made some mistakes about the 32BJ union, they did not donate to or endorsed de Blasio’s quix-idiotic presidential campaign, that was the hotel and hospitality union and 32BJ is a property services union. I apologize for the errors, which I deleted from this post, and also the fact that these security guards had to wait 8 years to be properly compensated.