Icy Invasions at Homeless Shelters

By | Jun 2, 2014

SWAT_teamThey swooped in like they were carrying ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) badges. They interrogated people. They intimidated, encroached, and intruded.

With weapons drawn, they barged in like a SWAT team, forcing open doors and knocking down anything that impeded their invasion.

But their destination was not a sweatshop, or a bank filled with hostages. Instead, this invasion took place in a homeless shelter in New York City.

This is not the plot of some twisted crime novel. It was an actual recent occurrence. Men in blue from the NYPD invaded a large homeless shelter, searching for criminals. They found 22 people with outstanding warrants.

Their logic was simple: If you want to find criminals, head to the homeless shelter.

Advocates for the homeless, however, are crying foul. After all, a shelter is supposed to be a place that people can rest without fear.

Advocates claim that, if police continue to sweep homeless shelters, people will simply return to the streets rather than risk staying in a shelter bed. Forcing people back onto streets that are filled with sickness, hunger, and crime is a societal injustice, they say.

But, frankly, if I needed to sleep in a shelter, I would want to rest assured that the guy bunking next to me was not a murderer.

Sadly, it makes sense that shelters could be harboring wanted criminals. If I were on the run from law enforcement, hiding out in a warehouse filled with homeless people would be a tempting option.

So, why not simply check for outstanding warrants as part of the shelter’s intake process? That seems preferable to invading the facility at two in the morning, waking people up, and questioning them as if the whole place is filled with criminals.

I am reminded of past community meetings I have attended to discuss the installation of new homeless facilities. Neighbors often assume the program will attract murderers and rapists.

“Not in my backyard!” they cry.

But the average person who is homeless, and forced to sleep in a shelter, just wants the same protection and security enjoyed by those who are housed.

If you are lucky enough to have a home, you don’t want a criminal lurking in your neighborhood. And if you’re unlucky enough to be homeless, you don’t want a criminal sleeping next to you in a homeless shelter.