Assessing New York City’s 30-Year Struggle with Homelessness

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the David B. Skinner Shelter at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. Decade after decade, as the church has sustained this ministry, the City of New York has worked to address the crisis of homelessness—with varying degrees of success. A newly published book chronicles the city's efforts, and next Sunday (Aug. 7) the author is coming here to talk about it.

Dr. Thomas MainThe book is titled Homelessness in New York City: Policymaking from Koch to de Blasio, by Thomas J. Main. Dr. Main is a professor of public affairs at Baruch College. He will join Lynn Wishart, chair of FAPC's Committee on Homelessness, for a conversation about his work, starting at 11:30 am in Jones Auditorium.

"The first Sunday in August is when the Presbyterian Church (USA) traditionally marks Homelessness and Affordable Housing Sunday, so the publication of Dr. Main's book this month is particularly timely for us," Lynn says. "The historical record he examines from a public policy perspective parallels our 30-year history with the shelter. So it will be interesting to learn more about the challenges for city government during the period we have been offering this ministry."

Dr. Main's book does not address the role of faith communities in addressing the homelessness crisis, nor does it mention the respite bed/drop-in center model that the Skinner Shelter operates under. But it does focus on the work of the city's Department of Homeless Services, the operation of family and single-adult shelters, and the particular influences, issues and achievements of each mayoral administration.

Lynn will begin the conversation with a brief history of the FAPC shelter, our 2001 lawsuit with the city, and our experience with the steps ministry. Then she will explore the major themes and findings from Dr. Main's research.

"He writes that homelessness policy has had three moments -- entitlement, paternalism, and now post-paternalism," she says. "We'll talk about what that means. He also makes the interesting point that it was fairly conservative mayors who developed New York's massive system, one of the best funded systems for addressing homelessness in the U.S. We'll talk about that, too."

Copies of Dr. Main's book will be available for sale at the discounted price of $25. To learn more about FAPC's history with homeless outreach, click here.

Tags: shelter,homeless

This entry was posted in General News Outreach

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church