Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani


Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, September 8, 1996

There are those who believe that a big city like New York is bound to be cold and uncaring, a heartless place where people in need are left to fend for themselves.

But in reality, just the opposite is true. The facts show that New York is the most compassionate, caring city in the nation.

Our approach to helping the homeless exemplifies this proud and honorable tradition. New York devotes more money to homeless services than any other city, with annual spending of more than $390 million.

These funds are used to provide shelter, housing assistance, health care and other vital services to more than 50,000 needy people every year. At any given time the city's "Department of Homeless Services" is supplying emergency housing assistance to about 5,900 families.

The homelessness problem is an emotional and complex issue that has really come to the fore in our society very recently. The first use of the words "homeless" and "homelessness" didn't appear in newspapers until 1981.

As America seek answers to the problem of homelessness, my administration has demonstrated a firm commitment to upholding and strengthening New York City's long tradition of compassion.

However, we have a slightly different definition of compassion than some of those who claim to speak for the poor.

We believe compassion should include more than simply providing basic necessities. We believe compassion should include more than a life of day-to-day existence, with no real possibility for change.

We believe the very best social program is a job. Because a job provides much more than income. A job provides self-respect, a place in the community, a feeling of accomplishment, and a sense of hope.

That's why New York City encourages homeless people to find jobs through our highly successful Workfare initiative. The 34,000 people participating in our Workfare program have demonstrated that Workfare helps people reintegrate into society, and move toward self-sufficiency.

A job also brings new dignity to the homeless, showing them that society values their contributions. A job tells them "Yes, your city wants to help. But we need your help in return."

Our definition of compassion also includes making sure that homeless services are not abused, that they are reserved for those who are truly in need.

Just as we did in our welfare reform program, we have implemented an improved eligibility screening process designed to insure that publicly-provided shelter is the last resort, not the first.

The City's shelter programs have been used by some as a way of finding an apartment, even though alternative housing options are available to them. We believe improved eligibility screening helps people become more self-reliant. And just last week the courts allowed our enhanced eligibility screening process to continue.

As our society learns to deal with this difficult issue, we must always be willing to look for new approaches and new ideas that will allow us to maximize our precious resources, and use our dollars to provide help where it's needed most.

Encouraging people to move from dependency to work, and using enhanced screening to preserve City programs for those truly in need, are ways that we can accomplish those objectives, while still maintaining our tradition as the most caring and compassionate city in the world.

From Gracie Mansion, this is Rudy Giuliani.

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