- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

NEW YORK Critics of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s policies on welfare and the homeless are painting the mayor as a political Scrooge, a heartless authoritarian who oppresses the poor. As an issue, it has become raw meat for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the mayor’s likely rival in next year’s U.S. Senate race.
“We’re separating children from their parents? And we’re arresting people simply because they’re poor and homeless? That’s not the right way to solve this problem,” said Howard Wolfson, the spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
The outbreak of invective comes in the wake of a series of protests that began over the weekend by advocates for the homeless.
Asked if Mr. Giuliani is playing politics with the homeless, Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota, the administration’s key attack dog in times of crisis, said “This has nothing to do with the Senate campaign.”
The city ran into trouble yesterday as two judges prevented the city from starting its program, which was set to start Monday, of putting children in foster care if their parents seek city shelter but refuse to accept required work assignments.
State Supreme Court Justices Elliott Wilk and Helen Freedman signed orders that bar the city from expelling homeless families from shelters, or from taking children from families on the grounds that the adults are not providing shelter for them.
The policy “strikes terror in the hearts of people with children,” Justice Wilk said.
City counsel Michael Hess said the city would appeal.
According to Mr. Lhota, the administration which he says has not cut funding for the homeless in three years had noted an uptick in the number of homeless and realized they had to deal with it.
The mayor is also under attack for directing the New York Police Department to arrest any homeless person reclining on the street who refuses to go to a shelter.
Last weekend, more than 1,000 protesters flooded Union Square Park and City Hall Park and on Tuesday, police arrested 20 persons as they chained themselves to cubicles in the 25th floor offices of the Human Resources Administration. The protest, mainly by members of Housing Works, a group that supplies housing for people with AIDS, denounced the policy of cutting off welfare benefits to those who fail drug tests.
For his part, the mayor is holding tough. “You cannot break into someone’s office that’s a crime … and if they try to do it again, they’ll be arrested again,” Mr. Giuliani said at a press briefing.
New York is the only U.S. city where the homeless have guaranteed access to shelters on demand.
The latest flare-up over the the homeless began last month after a man with no fixed address and a long arrest record smashed a young women, Nicole Barrett, in the head with a brick on a midtown street.
Mr. Giuliani directed the NYPD to pick up any homeless person who refused to go a shelter and insisted on sleeping on the streets, or was otherwise breaking the law.
Police arrested a suspect in the Barrett attack just as Mrs. Clinton announced that the mayor’s policy was “wrong” and accused him of trying to criminalize and politicize the homeless.
Mrs. Clinton’s detractors read her statement as a naked pitch to city liberals, as well as the black and Hispanic communities. To many observers, such as Republican analyst Jay Severin, it is an example of how the city itself is a crucible for testing politicians who crave the national stage.
“This is Broadway,” said Mr. Severin, who sees the Giuliani crackdown on the homeless as a Venus flytrap set for Mrs. Clinton. “He’s forcing her to move to the left, but she already has the votes of those who wear Birkenstocks and live on the Upper West Side.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat who represents Manhattan’s West Side, disagrees. “Giuliani’s problem is that he’s perceived as mean and nasty and this saying we’re going to throw people out of shelters and arrest them if they sleep on the streets does not help him,” said the lawmaker, who backs Mrs. Clinton.
The mayor is perceived by his detractors as trying to move to the right in the Senate stakes by appealing to conservative voters in “redneck country,” Upstate New York. Some political observers even argue that the mayor is playing the right because he does not intend to solicit the endorsement of the state’s Conservative Party.
The party’s chairman, Mike Long, insists that the mayor reverse his support for partial-birth abortion in exchange for an endorsement. The mayor just may find it politically expedient to “go it alone,” said one source.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports

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