Punch Cards for Homeless Offer Housing Hopes, Deliver Waits

(THE CITY) August 27, 2019

On any given night, more than 3,500 homeless New Yorkers live on the streets, often because they refuse to bed down in city shelters they say are too dangerous.

Many share a goal: placement in apartments or residential rooms under a program called Safe Haven.

But there’s a catch.

To qualify, many say, they have to “prove” they’re homeless. They say they’re told they need to plant themselves in the same spot, week after week, so outreach workers can see them there and officially dub them “chronically homeless.”

Some of the homeless men and women have even been given cards with a series of boxes to be signed by an outreach worker after each “sighting.” The card resembles the punch cards high-end coffee shops hand out to customers, touting a free cup of java after multiple purchases.

“There is something not right with this,” said Charmain Hamid, 44, who has been living on the streets of the city for much of the past decade. “I’m sitting there all day to wait for (an outreach worker) to see me? That’s not going to happen.”