Author: Chris Candelaria
In January of 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted an executive order which gave local law enforcement across the state the power to take homeless people off the streets and place them in shelters when temperatures go below freezing. In a short amount of time, this order has gotten both significant praise and relevant concern. This law can be beneficial to an individual that is a danger to themselves or others. This holds true in cases where there is potential drug use or mental illness. It allows people with no place to go, access to temporary shelter and warming centers during a very bitter time of the year.
On the other hand some advocates fear that if this law is not enforced properly it could essentially criminalize homelessness. For a portion of the homeless community, they choose to live a certain way. Freewill and the ability to make a choice is at times all these individuals have. Someone forcing them into a shelter or away from an area where they feel safe can be viewed as traumatizing. A law such as this takes away a person’s freewill in order to avoid the risk that comes with living in extreme cold weather. Such a law can cause shelters to be over populated. With issues such as theft, drug, use, and personal offenses it’s no wonder why people choose to avoid homeless shelters. Homeless people are naturally distrustful being around their peers let alone living alongside them. If this law is going to work, then there must be collaboration from multiple organizations such as law enforcement, homeless service/ outreach workers, and the shelters. The homeless must also be treated with respect, compassion, and courtesy; as well as avoid violations of the individual’s rights.
While some question the legality of Cuomo’s executive order, one step that Buffalo is taking comes in the form of the Code Blue initiative. Code Blue gives the homeless community the opportunity to obtain shelter and access to services. With successful collaboration and support of homeless service initiatives. There can be a way to make such a law work for the betterment of the community. Code Blue occurs every time temperatures go below freezing. If someone is in need of this service they can call 211 or meet at the NFTA Bus station at 8PM.