How the Homeless Became Important Once Again

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Further proof that timing is indeed everything came Wednesday for HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Normally, the release of a federal report on homelessness merits some polite yawns and space on page 17A. But bring it out amidst a Rudy Giuliani-Hillary Clinton fight on the issue that has everyone interested (even noted wonk Rosie O'Donnell has used her show as an anti-Rudy soapbox) and suddenly we're all very intrigued.

While that's good news for Cuomo, and may even lead to some help for the homeless nationwide, the story is another example of how a small urban event — in this case, the alleged assault with a brick by intermittently homeless man Paris Drake that sent a young woman to the hospital — can become of national interest when seen through the Giuliani-Hillary prism. Homelessness becomes hot, a chance for the two candidates to flaunt their party stripes. On one side the Republican mayor vows to protect society from the "violent crazies" (as a Daily News headline called them) walking the streets, while across the aisle the Democratic First Lady scores points with the sit-in crowd by boldly defending a voiceless dependent population. Now if only Cuomo can anticipate their next issue...