Friday, October 1, 2010 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

City Denies Aid to 200 Needy Families as Part of “Study”

The NYC Department of Homeless Services has callously cut off prevention services for 200 at-risk families as part of a "study" of the Homebase program.

The New York Daily News' Tina Moore reported on Thursday that, as part of an evaluation of the seven-years-old Homebase program, the Department of Homeless Services had divided 400 families seeking help into two groups:  One group got prevention services, the other 200 families were barred from Homebase services for up to two years. The City intends to follow the "have-not" families to see how many of them end up in the homeless shelter system.

Moore's article highlighted the story of one of these desperate "have-not" families:

Single mother Angie Almodovar wasn't too pleased when she got the one-page form letter in August.

"It was like playing Russian roulette," said Almodovar, 27, who is pregnant and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Mount Hope in the Bronx with her 8- and 1-year-old daughters.

She said she has called the agencies listed in the letter, and none could help.

Almodovar lost her job at an alarm company in 2008 and ran out of unemployment benefits over the summer. She went to Homebase in August while facing eviction because she owes $3,400 in back rent, she said. "Homebase was my only chance," she said.

Coalition for the Homeless and other advocates and service providers have strongly criticized the study. Yesterday, in the wake of Moore's article, a host of local elected officials joined the chorus of critics. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a blistering statement saying:

I am appalled that New York City families on the verge of homelessness are being treated like guinea pigs in a cruel and heartless "experiment" by the Department of Homeless Services. And I demand that it be terminated immediately. The Commissioner of Homeless Services and other officials who concocted it must explain in open hearings how and why they launched it in the first place....

The New York families who approached the Homebase Program, in desperate need of assistance, were placed in this bone-headed experiment for 18-24 months. And what's worse is that it has been funded with federal stimulus dollars - money that should be used to help people, not humiliate them. Homeless families are not statistics. Nor should they be "targets" for bureaucratic tinkering. This is the kind of barbaric approach to dealing with poverty that fell out of favor years ago. It is disheartening to see it alive and well in New York City today.

In a follow-up article in today's Daily News, other elected officisl blasted the study:

"Just when you think you've heard it all," said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan). "It's inhumane. How cold-hearted and callous."...

"It's bizarre. It's like they're being cast to the wind," said Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan)....

Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), who heads the General Welfare Committee, said she'll call for hearings....

Sharon Lee, a spokeswoman for City Controller John Liu, said the study "practically screams for closer examination."

While there is no question that the City ought to evaluate the effectiveness of Homebase and other programs, such studies should never result in harm to vulnerable children and adults. Simply put, there are better ways to measure results.

The Homebase study also raises a host of other questions, like why the City waited seven years to evaluate the program and why Federal stimulus dollars - which largely fund Homebase programs now - were denied to needy families.

Ultimately, there is already strong evidence about the success of vital prevention services for at-risk, low-income households, like long-term rental assistance, legal services, and emergency grants to pay rent arrears.

Unfortunately, the Homebase program only offered the latter of those services, and even then in only limited fashion. Indeed, this year the City shifted much of the Homebase programs resources away from prevention and towards case management services for homeess families residing in hotels and motels.

We urge the City to halt the study and provide help immediately to the 200 "have-not" families. And we look forward to an investigation of this misguided "study."

 

 

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