DHS Handshake Deals – No Deal for Homeless Families

I attended Comptroller John Liu’s press conference this morning. He released a terrific audit showing how reliant NYC continues to be on ‘handshake deals’ to shelter homeless families. Over $150 million taxpayer dollars go into these agreements each year. You can find the press release and report here. My brief remarks are below:

I’d like to thank Comptroller Liu for issuing this startling report — drawing attention to these deplorable conditions.

20 years ago, when I started working at Coalition for the Homeless, we were bringing hot meals into the notorious welfare hotels — like the Martinique. There were countless press expos és on the conditions in those hell holes and a resounding cry went out to close those places. New Yorkers across the political spectrum demanded that their tax dollars not be used to subsidize squalor.

A quarter century later, most folks assume that government has gotten out of the business of paying slumlords to house homeless families in deplorable conditions. But as the comptroller has shown so graphically today, New York City continues to shelter vulnerable homeless children in horrible conditions — and it’s us, the taxpayers, who are footing the bill.

Our homeless neighbors need a hand up. They need stability and safety, so they can get their lives back on track and their kids can get to school each morning. Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Gibbs pledged back in 2003 to end this practice of handshake deals with landlords. With record homelessness in NYC – 39,000 people in our shelter system, Mayor Bloomberg must pledge to end this practice, once and for all.

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