STATEMENT: DHS Wages War on Opportunity

On June 17th, The Doe Fund filed suit against the City of New  York, the Department of Homeless Services, and Commissioner Gilbert Taylor to stop them from forcing 50 sex offenders into the Porter Avenue facility. The story has been covered extensively by NBC, The New York Post, and the New York Daily News. Harriet McDonald, The Doe Fund’s Executive Vice President and co-founder of Ready, Willing & Able, has released the following statement:

Tyrone spent his childhood in seven different foster homes. In some of them, he was ignored. In others, abused. He dropped out of high school and hit the streets, starting a cycle of incarceration and homelessness he couldn’t escape. Rocky, the child of a single mother living in poverty, was barely a teenager when gang members in his housing project convinced him to start selling drugs. When he was arrested a year later, it would have ended his education and his chances at a normal, productive life— if he hadn’t found Ready, Willing & Able.

These are the men we help. After 30 years and 22,000 individuals served, we’ve learned they all share one thing in common: they’ve spent their entire lives deprived of opportunity. For some, that deprivation has resulted in arrest. For others, it’s meant a lifetime of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. But we have the “cure”: a paying job. Now the city wants to take all of that away from Tyrone, Rocky, and the rest of the 1,000 men we serve every day.

The city is attempting to force us to warehouse dangerous sex offenders in our Porter Avenue facility, simply because it’s 1700 feet from a school, instead of 1,000. And the consequences are extremely serious:

The Department of Homeless Services wants us to take “men in blue” out of our program— men who are repairing their lives and earning money to support themselves and their families and cleaning the streets— to make room for a population of sex offenders who cannot work and cannot participate in our programs. On top of depriving these men of the opportunities they’ve earned, the city is endangering our staff, our trainees, and the community around our facility, all because it has not sufficiently invested in solutions for the sex offender population.

Put simply: the city is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Our program reduces the homeless population, creates jobs, and saves the city an incredible $3.60 for every dollar that comes in. But we can’t do it if we’re forced to house a population that cannot work, cannot integrate with the community, and cannot contribute to our city’s cleanliness and safety. And we will not stand for it.

In response, we have filed suit against the City, The Department of Homeless Services, and Commissioner Gilbert Taylor to stop this reckless, irresponsible decision. And although we have been denied a restraining order against the city while the case is heard, we are resolute in refusing to allow sex offenders into our facilities and stand firm in our commitment to the safety of our community.

If the Mayor is serious about reducing the shelter population in New York City and creating jobs for those who need them most, our program— and the safety of its participants, staff, and neighborhood— must be preserved.

Harriet Karr-McDonald

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About Author: The Doe Fund

Founded in 1985, The Doe Fund provides life-transforming services for the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, disenfranchised youth, and people living with AIDS. The organization's flagship Ready, Willing & Able program has helped tens of thousands of individuals achieve permanent self sufficiency through paid work, transitional housing, and employment training.