No End in Sight

By Giselle Routhier

While Tammy’s children enrolled in the Coalition’s Bound for Success after-school program, we learned that this was her family’s second time through the shelter system.

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Tammy first became homeless in early 2008, after leaving an apartment where she and her children were exposed to lead paint and a host of other dangerous conditions, including rats and bad plumbing. She was placed in a shelter in Brooklyn and remained there for six months with her four children.

In September 2008, she was enrolled in the Children’s Advantage program, with a promise that the subsidy would transition her family to a Section 8 (Federal housing) voucher within one or two years. The apartment where she was placed was virtually untenable. At times, her family lacked heat and hot water, but they endured. Unfortunately, like many other families, her Section 8 voucher never came
through, and after her subsidy ended in September 2010, she received an eviction notice. She was forced to re-enter the shelter later that year.

Because one of her daughters was born with Down Syndrome, a hole in her heart, and breathing problems, attending to the 24-hour care her daughter required, Tammy left her job. She and her children remain in a lower Manhattan shelter today, wondering how they will get out and hoping that if assistance comes, it will be permanent.

In the meantime, 15,000 formerly homeless families are still receiving Advantage, with Department of
Homeless Services’ statistics showing that one in three of Advantage families end up homeless once more. In March, the City put these families at an even greater risk when, in response to a State budget cut, it abruptly announced that it would cease rental assistance payments for all 15,000 families – giving them just a two-week notice!

With the help of the Coalition, the Legal Aid Society immediately filed a lawsuit on behalf of current tenants who were guaranteed at least a year of rental assistance under Advantage. A judge ordered that April and May rent be paid while the arguments were heard and a decision was made. As we go to press, it is unclear if June rent will be paid.

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Published in Safety Net, Spring/Summer 2011