Wednesday, April 18, 2012 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

NY City Council Promotes Effective Housing Assistance for Homeless New Yorkers in Budget Response

Echoing the recommendations of Coalition for the Homeless and policy experts, the New York City Council called for resuming use of Federal housing programs to help homeless children and adults move from costly shelters to permanent housing.

Late last week the New York City Council released its official, City Charter-mandated response (PDF) to Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget plan for FY 2013. The City Council budget response reiterates the forward-thinking proposal made by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her February “State of the City” address: To resume priority referrals of homeless households to proven Federal housing programs like public housing and Section 8 vouchers, and to create a new rental assistance program modeled on the successful Federal voucher program.

The City Council recommendations echo those of Coalition for the Homeless – see our State of the Homeless 2011 report and the “one in three” plan to reduce NYC homelessness – homeless service providers, and policy experts. Indeed, it is clear to everyone engaged in the issue of homelessness EXCEPT the Bloomberg administration that using Federal housing assistance to help homeless New Yorkers – which was the City’s policy under three previous Mayors – will reduce the homeless population, save taxpayer dollars, AND improve the lives of vulnerable children and families.

Below is the key section of the City Council’s budget response, followed by other important recommendations to protect funding for homeless youth and supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS.. The entire document can be found here (PDF).

A BETTER APPROACH TO HOMELESSNESS

The Council continues to call into question the Administration’s decision to terminate the Advantage program, which was the City’s sole rental assistance program for the homeless. The Administration decided it would discontinue the Advantage program – which provided rental assistance for homeless individuals and families for up to two years – when State and Federal support was pulled. At the time the City announced the elimination of the program more than 15,000 Advantage clients were accessing the rental subsidy program. The Council calls upon the Administration to prioritize a viable solution to keep former Advantage families currently in apartments housed.

The Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) shelter census numbers are again at a record high after years of consistent increases, with over 40,000 adults and children spending the night in its shelters currently. The Council welcomes any opportunity to work with the Department of Homeless Services to identify and promote paths for homeless families and singles out of the shelter system and into permanent housing. Specifically, we encourage DHS to work with the Housing Authority (NYCHA) to restore the preference for homeless families for vacant NYCHA units and available Section 8 vouchers, as well as to work with the Council to create a pilot rental subsidy program to replace the Advantage program and help transition families out of shelter and into appropriate permanent housing.

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SHARED ROOMS PROPOSAL

The Administration has again put forward a proposal to shelter multiple families in apartment style units in an effort to save money. The implementation of such a plan would require the Council to amend Local Law 18, which states “No homeless family shelter shall be established which does not provide a bathroom, a refrigerator, and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area within each unit within the shelter…” The Council has no intention of changing Local Law 18, which protects the safety of children and families, and the Administration should rescind this proposal in the Executive Budget.

ADULT SHELTER DIVERSION

The Council urges the Administration to withdraw its proposal to implement an Adult Shelter diversion policy in the Executive Budget. The Council and the Legal Aid Society brought suit to prevent implementation of this policy, and a court determined that DHS could not implement the policy without complying with the City Administrative Procedure Act. The Council will not support this policy change and the modest savings it entails. The Council believes savings could be better realized by providing additional support for homelessness prevention services and assistance in transitioning single adults to appropriate permanent housing.

MAINTAIN COMPREHENSIVE HIV/AIDS SERVICES

The Human Resource Administration’s (HRA) HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) expedites access to essential benefits and social services needed by persons living with AIDS or clinical symptomatic HIV illness and their families. HASA services include connecting clients with adequate housing and providing financial security and medical care in addition to other services necessary to allow them to manage their illness and to live their lives with the highest level of self-reliance and dignity.

Since the Council passed Local Law 49 in 1997, HASA caseloads have increased from roughly 16,000 cases to a current caseload of just over 32,000. HASA services have expanded and funding has increased substantially, from $170 million in Fiscal 2002 to $219 million in Fiscal 2011. However, HRA now proposes funding cuts which would fund HASA programs in Fiscal 2013 at almost Fiscal 2002 levels. These cuts would undoubtedly reduce the availability of services and undermine Local Law 49. The Council does not agree with HRA’s claims that the services provided by HASA case managers and contracted supportive housing case managers are duplicative and believes that these cuts violate Local Law 49 of 1997. Accordingly, the Council calls upon the Administration to restore and baseline $6.2 million for HASA services in Fiscal 2013 and in the outyears.

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RUNAWAY AND HOMELESS YOUTH

DYCD’s Fiscal 2013 Preliminary Budget would eliminate 159 out of 251 shelter beds for runaway and homeless youth (RHY), reduce essential non-residential services such as drop-in centers, and eliminate street outreach services. The Council urges the Mayor to follow the State’s recent example and provide critical core funding for this program in the Executive Budget and Financial Plan.

Because non-residential services are central to DYCD’s Runaway Homeless Youth (RHY) program model, the Council recommends that DYCD include in its Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) indicators the total number of youth it serves annually in its drop-in centers, as well as the number of homeless youth contacts made annually through its street outreach services.

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