Friday, August 24, 2012 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Fact-Checking Longer Shelter Stays

Mayor Bloomberg shocked a lot of folks on Thursday when he blamed rising shelter stays on “pleasurable” shelter conditions. See our response here. And media response here, here, here, and here.

So what’s really behind rising shelter stays? The numbers tell a different story. The average length of stay for families with children took a marked rise just after March 2011, when the Bloomberg administration ended the last remaining rental assistance program for homeless families.

Since then, the Mayor has refused to implement cost-saving and effective strategies to move families out of shelter and into permanent housing.

In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg made the worst homeless policy decision of his tenure by cutting off homeless families from accessing federal housing resources, such as public housing and Section 8. These resources were cost effective and successful in moving families out of shelter and keeping them out. Data show that among families leaving shelters with these resources, less than 4 percent return. Under Mayor Bloomberg’s replacement time-limited subsidy ‘Advantage,’ nearly 1 in 3 families have returned to shelter.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has proposed a plan that would once again provide federal housing resources to homeless families. The Independent Budget Office concluded that her plan would save the City close to $6 million from the resulting decrease in the shelter census in the first year alone. But more importantly, it would provide permanent housing to 2,500 homeless families.

So here we have it: no housing assistance equals longer shelter stays and more homeless families, while access to federal housing resources equals savings and fewer returns to shelter. Mayor Bloomberg should examine his data more closely. It’s a no-brainer.

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