Over the last six years, we've worked very hard to reestablish the work ethic as central to the life of New York City. And we've made tremendous progress. More than 500,000 people have left the welfare rolls since 1995-that's more than the whole population of Cleveland. And more than 250,000 have participated in the City's Work Experience Program, gaining job skills, receiving placement assistance, and ultimately finding permanent employment in the private sector. All in all, we've reduced the City's welfare rolls by nearly 45 percent, bringing them to their lowest level since 1967.
Now we're committed to going even further. Since 1997, state law has required that able-bodied homeless people be subject to the same rules as welfare recipients. That is, homeless people have to work in order to receive benefits-in this case shelter. Because of litigation, this provision has not yet been enforced. But the City is determined to begin using it before the end of this year.
Why? For the same reasons that we reformed welfare policy: to reduce government dependency, encourage self-sufficiency, and make even more progress in re-instilling the importance of work among everyone in the City of New York.
For many years, New York City encouraged people, in large numbers, to get on welfare and to stay on welfare, and to remain dependent. That was devastating to the work ethic in New York City-not just for 1.1 million people dependent on government as of the early 1990s, but also for their children. There's no reason why able-bodied New Yorkers should not be able to work to support themselves, and should be encouraged to work, rather than encouraged to be dependent. That's why the City will soon be requiring the residents of City shelters, and anyone who applies for space in a City shelter, to accept job assignments. It's being done not only to help the entire city, but to help the people who are homeless also, in a compassionate and in a decent way and with respect for their independence.
I want to make absolutely clear that our new policy only affects people who are capable of working. The disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly, the infirm, and children will never be denied beds in City shelters-never ever. The City will continue to take care of people who can't work.
And we'll continue to care for children. No parent will be asked to work unless adequate day care can be provided for their children. Under the new policy, childcare will be offered for all those who are asked to work. The fright rhetoric you've been hearing about thousands of children being taken from their families and being placed in foster care is absolutely inaccurate and irresponsible.
The truth is that this policy will help people to help themselves, by helping them become capable of taking care of themselves, and in so doing, taking care of their families. This is the highest form of compassion and love that there is, and it's the direction in which our City-all of us-should be headed at the end of the 20th century. This is Rudy Giuliani.
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