Social welfare is a magnet. Extend it, and they will come. Extend it carelessly and they will really come.
“People pay $3,000 for an apartment here, and I get to live here for free!” said Michal Jablonowski, 25, who moved back to the city from his native Poland three years ago and is now staying in a Bowery shelter.
“I have food. I have health care. It’s great,’’ Jablonowski said. “Here, the city supports you. The city helps you with everything.’’
Nearly one in four of the city’s single homeless people who entered the system in December 2012 listed their last address as outside the city.
“We get breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have a microwave and TV. They do the laundry for free,” noted Jablonowski, who lived in New York for years before going back to his homeland, only to return here to a freebie life.
Jablonowski said he even gets a prepaid cellphone — allowing 1,000 texts and 300 minutes a month — through Medicaid and boasted, “I’m going to get my teeth fixed.”
“I love New York because you cannot starve in New York, you can always find food and clothes,” he said.
“The shelters are really nice. You have clean sheets. You get to watch TV and stay in the warm. Homeless people have it so good, they don’t want to look for a job.’’
This isn’t unique to New York City. The problem is ubiquitous to most major cities in developed nations. Social welfare acts as a magnet for parasites who aren’t part of a social safety net, but are exploiting it.
As a New Yorker, I’ve seen a shift away from the classic urban homeless person to young white men who are from out of state or even out of the country soliciting for cash. Some of this increased with the Occupy Wall Street influx, but it predated it. I never had a very good explanation for the gentrification of homelessness, but this just might be it.
Taxpayers shell out $3,000 a month to feed, house and provide other services to each homeless person. The average stay in a city shelter is as long as nine months — although there’s no limit.
“Some people in here have it better than people working 9 to 5, because they’re not paying rent. I’ve stayed in hostels worse. I call this four stars,” said William Sullivan, who came to the city from LA for a job that fell through.
“Everyone in this place has a silver spoon in their mouth. You get fed three to four meals a day, and the food here is great.”
A Michigan woman who arrived in December said she was drawn to New York for the “adventure.”
“New York is New York! That’s why people come here,” said Amy Kaufman, 41, who is staying in a city-funded Chelsea shelter. “I go to the library, and I go sightseeing a lot in Times Square and Chelsea. I like it here. I’m staying here for a while because the housing options are better. Michigan is in a recession right now.”
New York City. Come for the adventure. Stay for the deluxe homeless shelters.