Bloomberg’s Budget Plan Would Cut Vital Services for Homeless and Poor New Yorkers

Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg released his preliminary budget plan for FY 2012, which begins July 1st, and as predicted it includes sharp cutbacks to vital services for homeless and low-income New Yorkers.

As a host of news organizations reported (see herehere, and here), the Mayor’s budget plan proposes dramatic funding reductions for senior centers and child care, and would lay off thousands of public school teachers. As Housing Works and others noted, the plan also threatens cutbacks to services for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS – the same proposed cuts that the New York City Council managed to stop last year.

In the area of homeless services, one proposal stood out. Reacting to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate $35 million in State funding for the failed Advantage program (we wrote about this here, and you can find our briefing paper here and State budget testimony here), the Mayor threatens to scrap the entire program.

This would ultimately be good news for homeless New Yorkers and NY taxpayers — but only if the Mayor takes the right steps.

As we’ve noted earlier, no one should mourn the end of the Advantage program, a deeply-flawed and badly-designed program that has become nothing more than a revolving door back to homelessness for thousands of vulnerable children and families. And the good news is that New York has Federal housing resources available to replace the time-limited Advantage subsidies.

So in the coming weeks and months we’ll be urging State Legislators and City Councilmembers to work with the Bloomberg administration to ensure that homeless families have access to vital Federal housing assistance – and that New York taxpayers stop footing the bill for the discredited Advantage program.

In response to the Mayor’s budget proposal, Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s executive director, issued the following statement yesterday:

“The Mayor’s proposal to de-fund the failed Advantage program would put an end to a disastrous experiment that the City’s own data shows has become little more than a revolving door back to homelessness. Fortunately the City and State have Federal housing resources available to help move homeless families from costly shelters to permanent housing — and these programs don’t cost New York taxpayers a dime.

“But without replacing Advantage with the Federal programs, Mayor Bloomberg’s administration would become the first in modern history to have no plan whatsoever for moving people out of the city’s homeless shelters. That would trigger even further overcrowding in shelters and needless suffering for thousands of families.

“Instead, in this time of record homelessness, the City must replace Advantage with the proven and cost-effective policy of giving qualified homeless families priority access to public housing vacancies and federal rent subsidy programs like Section 8. By giving the homeless permanent, supportive, and affordable housing the City can both save taxpayer money and help thousands of people rebuild their lives.”