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drains from someone’s toilet on the floor above. There is an infant girl, two boys with dark and hollowed eyes. All of this might make some sense were this place a temporary shelter, a place to get families off the street and then perhaps into some permanent housing. But for many in New York, this is permanent housing. And it still might make some sense particularly in the terms of the public morality of the Age of Reagan if these facilities were provided to the city of New York at a cost that might justify housing a family in such conditions. But neither is this the case. For a room for a homeless family in the Hotel Martinique, the city of New York pays from $65 to $75 a night. The fact that the city pays $21,800 a year to house families in hotels owned by private owners who contribute large sums to elected officials is a powerful argument against any effort to privatize social services. Even New York Mayor Ed Koch described such hotels as “fleabags” and “hellholes,” demanding that the city no longer house families in such places. The statement was made, however, in 1971, while Koch served in Congress; as Mayor he sees things differently. FOR THOSE of us in Texas who smugly observe that no such abuse of public funds occurs here, we are, of course, correct. There are no public monies to fuel the furnace of corruption. A 1986 survey, conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless, described Houston and Miami as the only major cities in the country were no local funds are spent on the homeless. The low-spenders’ point of reference, against which these two were measured, was Dallas where only $79,000 in local funds are dedicated to assist the homeless. But there is, it seems, no method to the madness by which the nation’s largest city provides for those who would otherwise make their homes on the streets. The state of New York provides a maximum of $270 per month for families on welfare to pay rent. Yet there are no houses or apartments that rent for less than $350, and $400 to $500 is closer to the going rate for lowrent housing. Thirteen dollars is provided to each family every two weeks to provide for transportation to search for apartments that will never be found. And each month, caseworkers repeat the ritual of reviewing the documented attempts of their clients’ apartment search. Single parents can hardly work if they can find work. The drug dealers, pimps, and petty criminals who stake out the streets and alleys around the apartments are a constant threat to unsupervised children. So for many families, once they are caught in the system there is no exit. And though the argument has been made that New York’s policies encourage homelessness, they are not the cause. Texas, a state that offers almost no support to people living at the margin, also is home to a large and growing homeless population. A Dallas Morning News series on the homeless, published in 1986, speculated that as many as 15,000 in Dallas lived in and out of a dozen shelters, funded mostly by the United Fund. And in Houston, the homeless population is said to be as high as 25,000. Who are these people? Some, of course, are the hard-core poor unemployed and unemployable. But many are family breadwinners used to surviving on the minimum wage, the working poor that former University of Texas sociologist David Snow describes as “only one case of the flu away from the streets.” \(Kozol’s work supports Snow’s argument that the homeless population is not comprised of Annie Harrington is one resident of the Hotel Martinique. “In four years,” she tells Kozol, “we’ve been in and out of the hotels. Here for ten months. It seems like ten years.” Her husband, since being discharged from the army, has held a series of part-time jobs. With her three children, and her husband who works part time at a hospital and is attending “computer classes,” she resides in one room. The dream that she describes to Kozol, her dream of an apartment, is a pathos-filled, real-life version of Audrey’s campy “Somewhere That’s Green” from the musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors: “The boys, they had to share a room. I painted that room blue; there was a spread over the bed that Doby slept in. It had football pictures on it. My kitchen had a phone, a stove, refrigerator, toaster, all of those nice things. . . . The neighbors liked me. And the landlord liked me too. He said we could use the backyard, so we bought a grill to barbecue outside on summer nights. Then I woke up.” Another resident, a former maintenance worker in a Manhattan high-rise whose wife one day suddenly abandoned him and their three children, Kozol calls Mr. Allesandro. Allesandro’s domestic responsibilities, arid late arrivals at work, resulted in reduction to part-time status and the inability to pay his rent. Evicted, and caring for three children, he turned to one of the city’s emergency assistance units: “So I’m in this place with about 200 cots packed side by bi side. Men and women, children,” he says, n “all together. No dividers. There’s no it curtains and no screens. I have to dress my A kids with people watching. When my girls in go to the toilet I can’t take them and they’re pa scared to go alone. A lot of women there as are frantic. So I stand outside the door.” th After leaving the emergency shelter, “t Allesandro and his children are placed in m the Martinique. By day, Allesandro looks st for work, all the while afraid that he will $3 find a job only to lose it: “I’d be back there with the children in the barracks.” to With a woman he calls Holly, Kozol reconstructs the short life of her third child, an infant named Benjamin. Evicted from the Martinique for a rules violation her husband, who was not an authorized guest, was caught sleeping in her room the family of four found themselves on the streets caring for an infant recently discharged from the hospital. A viral infection had left the child partially blind, brain-damaged, and hydrocephalic. Almost all of the child’s seven months, Kozol explains, were spent in Beth Israel Hospital, the Hotel Martinique, and the Mayfair Hotel \(from which they also were evicted because the husband again was caught in the room The infant’s final day out of the hospital was spent in an emergency assistance unit where the family had waited days for permanent shelter: “They say in the paper that he died there on the floor. That isn’t true. I lay him in the carriage.” HOW IS IT that a critically ill infant was left dying in a city-funded shelter? Kozol is cautious in his assessment of the situation: I do not believe that the probity of the health officials should be called in question. Holly speaks with obvious affection of her doctor. It is unimaginable that any of those who came in contact with the child wished him ill or that the officials consciously released him to the street. Hospitals all over the United States, faced with hundreds of thousands of unsheltered people and with millions of the very, very poor, do the best they can, and sometimes do so quite heroically. The issue is not medical or bureaucratic mishap in Manhattan. It is destitution. Can Ronald Reagan be blamed for all of this? Yes, though here I concede that the terms of the reviewer’s indictment are harsher than those of the author. Kozol cites a New Republic summary of budget cuts made under Ronald Reagan’s direction between 1980 and 1984: Housing assistance $1.8 billion AFDC $4.8 billion Child nutrition $5.2 billion Food stamps $6.8 billion At the time that Kozol was writing, he observes, the President was proposing a Ilion-dollar cut in food stamps and in childutrition funds for 1987. And for the record, should be noted that it was the dministration of Ronald Reagan that sisted on counting residents’ welfare yments, made directly to hotel owners, part of indigent families’ incomes. For e Allesandros, a family of four, this ightening of eligibility requirements” eant, in 1986, the reduction of a food amp allocation from $145 per month to 3 per month. “Even if one American child is forced go to bed hungry at night,” Ronald THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19