MSCC Homeless, Housing Study A Roadmap

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | For years, the Midtown South Community Council (MSCC) has planted seeds in hopes a coalition will grow to help the homeless. This month, as part of that effort, a sapling sprung when the council released its first-ever “Homeless and Housing Study.”

“The idea was to answer the public’s outcries,” said John A. Mudd, the council’s president and a longtime resident at W. 38th St. and Eighth Ave.

From 2017: A homeless encampment on W. 38th St. and Eight Ave., successfully disbanded by the Midtown South Community Council in cooperation with homeless services organizations. | Photo by John A. Mudd

At the council’s monthly meetings — in which residents can voice concerns directly to the Midtown South Precinct — the homeless and what the police can do about them are often a topic.

“Policing has its limits,” according to the study, and “some homeless habits, however frowned upon, are not illegal.”

Quality of life concerns for residents — such as public intoxication, loitering, encampments, panhandling, and other issues — are addressed in the report.

Mudd said he hopes the study also spurs the public’s involvement in the “age-old problem,” and encourages people to call 311 and provides tips on how to do so. The study notes that calls contribute to statistical data, and a high volume of them “will identify hot spots for active enforcement and outreach efforts.”

In addition to the report being a resource for the public, Mudd said he was hopeful it would break down the silo effect.

“You have a lot of people doing great work but we can’t crack [it] unless we come together and work together and streamline efforts,” Mudd said in a phone interview. The study “has enough to educate and map out a plan.”

A recently released report examines the homelessness issue, and how to help those on the street make the move into permanent housing. | Photo by John A. Mudd

The council’s Homeless and Housing Committee has been meeting, with Mudd saying Community Board 4, nonprofits Breaking Ground and Urban Pathways, and others, including representatives from the city, have been very active. The council is also working with the business improvement districts in the area, such as the Garment District Alliance and the Grand Central Partnership.

“City agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, and citizens are searching for solutions to intervene in this social crisis and improve the health of our city. It is the hope of this proposal to serve that end and to bring others together to help with solutions to this chronic problem,” according to the study.

Mudd said the report took about eight months, and there are plans to update it.

For some time, the council has been working on web services, and the report states that will be the “Amazon of services made to provide: day services, shelters, housing support, supportive housing entree, health services [and] food.”

The Midtown South Community Council has invited many speakers to its meetings to talk about homelessness, and it is producing videos of those speakers as well as working on documentaries.

The study looks at some of the factors that cause and contribute to homelessness: the criminal justice system and bail, and the lack of educational opportunities for those who are incarcerated; economics and rising wealth inequality; the treatment of mental health issues; federal, state, and local policies regarding housing; urban planning; and the development of the city.

“What I want to is draw the through lines,” Mudd said. “It’s like a puzzle… there’s a big picture here.”

Mudd points to how Midtown has been developed — started under the Bloomberg administration — with hotels being built in the area.

“We’re overlooking housing potential,” he said. “We have to rethink what the city is meant to be.”

According to the report, “The over-saturation of hotels in our city is death to our communities. Look no further than 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen from 35 to 40th Streets. The tenement buildings, which serve low- to moderate-income wage earners, are disappearing. The Midtown area was never known to be heavily residential, and less so today.”

There are 276 hotels with 37,986 rooms — both under construction and in pre-construction — across the city, according to city data from 2017.

The report also takes a dive into the city’s shelter system and the types of housing available, with Mudd pointing out the pushback from residents regarding a proposed shelter at the former Park Savoy Hotel on W. 58th St. on what has been dubbed “Billionaires’ Row.”

“We need to rethink how we look at the homeless,” he said. “We need to think outside the box” about the problem.

Many advocacy groups emphasize a “Housing First” model — meaning a homeless person is off the street and has a place to call home.

According to Breaking Ground in the report, “Housing is an important social determinant of health. Once a person is stably housed, they are vastly more likely to achieve sobriety and address other important needs for healthier living.”

Advocates are also proponents of supportive housing, which offers on-site services as well as a place to live.

The proposals in the study need funding with Mudd saying, “We gotta have the resources.”

“The homeless crisis is upon us,” the report states. “There are so many related pieces that make up part of the problem, but they can also be part of the solution. We’re looking for those solutions.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *