Five years ago, the Bloomberg Administration set an ambitious goal to significantly reduce homelessness in New York. Today, they have abandoned that goal, but instead of admitting failure, cite circumstances out of their control. According to Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Robert Hess, they have shifted their priority from reducing homelessness to adequately maintaining the shelter system.
A recent article in City Hall News looks at this shift in goals after DHS Commissioner Hess testified at a City Council Hearing regarding the revoking of 2,600 Section 8 vouchers from needy families. Advocates are not entirely thrilled.
"The problem, experts argue, is that Bloomberg's plan was designed to fight homelessness as a stand-alone problem, not as a symptom of several underlying problems, like poverty and the scarcity of affordable housing."
This is evident in the administration's 2005 decision to remove homeless families as priority recipients of federal Section 8 vouchers. It is evident in their refusal to prioritize the 2,600 families whose Section 8 vouchers were revoked for any type of immediate assistance.
Commissioner Hess's new trademark line is "we house everyone, every night." He has been saying that for most of the past year, as homelessness has been on the rise. He oddly enough kept saying this even during the months of October, November, and December, when the Coalition witnessed dozens of homeless men and women going without shelter beds for weeks at a time.
It is apparent that the administration keeps changing their tone to fit the circumstances around them. We would urge them to instead act based on what works--time-tested, effective ways to reduce and prevent homelessness, such as prioritizing homeless families for public housing and federal housing subsidies, preserving affordable housing, and accelerating the construction of permanent supportive housing.
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