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Can the homeless be forced into shelters?
If temperatures dip below freezing in New York this week local governments will be required to force homeless people off the streets and into shelters to comply with a new executive order. - photo by Daniel Lombardi
If temperatures dip below freezing in New York this week, local governments will be required to force homeless people off the streets and into shelters to comply with an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to the New York Times.

Its about love. Its about compassion. Its about helping one another and basic human decency, Gov. Cuomo said Sunday.

Responses to the new policy have been mixed. Most support the intent to help the homeless, but some are questioning the legality and morality of the policy.

To forcibly remove all homeless individuals in freezing weather, as the governor has ordered, will require him to pass state law, said a statement from the New York City Mayor's office.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, many homeless say they fear for their safety in the shelters and human rights lawyers are criticizing the executive order for violating peoples autonomy.

We have a lot of legal concerns about how you force people off the street and into shelter, said Judith Goldiner, head of the law reform unit at the Legal Aid Society. To the extent that theyre talking about arresting people who refuse, obviously we are completely opposed to that.

Some homeless people have also spoken out against the new executive order. I wont go to a shelter! Hows that even lawful? You cant force people off a public street, Luis Diaz, 31, told the New York Daily News.

Its going to be crazy. They dont have enough room. They dont have the infrastructure to do this. Where are they going to put us? If theyre shoving us in shelters with crazies and people who cant handle being in there, there is going to be a lot of fights. Were safer out here.

If I get sued for keeping people safe and getting people in from the cold, because they were endangering themselves, so be it, Gov. Cuomo said on WCBS Radio.

In an op-ed published in Monday's New York Times Monday, Christine Quinn, CEO of Win, a New York City homeless shelter for families, wrote that homeless shelters need to be reimagined and connected to holistic services that can help move families into permanent housing.

Shelters should have free on-site GED preparation classes and exams, said Quinn. She went on to say some shelters should be built under the same roof as permanent housing spaces, to provide a continuum of care and connection with the neighborhood.

The Coalition for the Homeless recently estimated homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. There are now more than 109,000 different individuals using the New York City shelter system, which is an 86 percent increase from a decade ago.

Nationally, there are more than 500,000 homeless people, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments annual Homeless Assessment Report, and 69 percent of these people stay in shelters.
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