Mrs. Clinton Attacks Giuliani Plan
NEW YORK (AP) _ Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday attacked Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s policy of arresting people who sleep on the street, and she pledged to secure federal funding for housing and mental illness if elected to the Senate.
``Criminalizing the homeless with mass arrests for those whose only offense is that they have no home is wrong,″ Mrs. Clinton said, sounding very much like a candidate on the stump. ``Locking people up for a day will not take a single homeless person off the street. It will not make a mentally ill person who should be in an institution any better. It will not find a job for a responsible person who is willing to work.″
As her New York City audience of 85 black ministers interrupted repeatedly with strong applause, she added: ``These policies are not only wrong, they will not work and we can do better.″
Mrs. Clinton’s attack on Giuliani came one week after she calmed nervous supporters by saying she intends to run for Senate. She also promised to step up her campaigning.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press in Buffalo, Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday that she planned ``to speak out more, as I have today.″
Mrs. Clinton also said that ``at an appropriate time in the future,″ President Clinton would be doing some campaigning for her in New York.
``He’s already been very supportive and has given good advice ... His voice is going to be a very important voice in the 2000 election,″ Mrs. Clinton said after having lunch at a Buffalo restaurant.
During her New York City appearance, Mrs. Clinton did not mention Giuliani by name, but she was clearly referring to his recently announced policies of kicking homeless people out of shelters if they won’t accept work assignments, and arresting those found sleeping in public places. Police are not allowed to arrest homeless people who move on when told to, but they have charged those who refuse to move with other infractions, such as disorderly conduct.
Giuliani, meeting with reporters during a fund-raising visit to Houston, defended the policy.
``We do more for homelessness than the city has ever done before,″ he said. ``The basic response used to be to ignore people who were living on the streets. Now we are dealing with it.″
He said the only people being arrested are those who are wanted for crimes.
``People who are not familiar with (New York) can miss the reality of what’s happening,″ he said, taking a swipe at her out-of-state status. ``To take some of the few situations when people are arrested is to misunderstand the program.″
Mrs. Clinton had her own ideas about dealing with homelessness, highlighting that 250,000 families are on an eight-year-long waiting list for federally subsidized housing.
``If I am elected senator, I will fight hard to triple new housing vouchers and target them to areas with the highest need,″ she said at the New York Theological Seminary.
Noting that Christmas celebrates ``the birth of a homeless child,″ Mrs. Clinton said: ``Tonight in New York there will be no room at the inn for thousands of homeless New Yorkers. ... Our political leaders must be judged on how they treat everyone, including and especially the least fortunate.″
Mrs. Clinton has spoken extensively in recent months about reforming health care and improving education. But Tuesday’s event hinted at a new focus on some of the most serious, though often overlooked, problems of New York City. Despite the economic boom, panhandlers, soup kitchens and ragged people wandering the streets muttering to themselves remain part of the city’s landscape.
Giuliani instituted the arrest policy after a Texas woman was critically injured by an apparently homeless man who hit her on the head with a brick. The attack followed incidents in which subway riders were pushed in front of trains by mentally ill people.
Elgin Watkins, pastor of the Nazarene Congregational Church in Brooklyn, came away impressed with the first lady.
``She’s not only brilliant, but she has a great understanding and compassion,″ he said. ``She has the capacity for inclusiveness and bringing people together. We need that in New York.″