Here are the victories you helped win in 2010

Despite record homelessness, there is hope. Your support of the Coalition helped steer the City of New York to adopt sensible, housing-based policies and champion the legal rights of our homeless neighbors. This year’s victories include:

Reversing the Shelter “Rent” Policy

Last year, the City ordered homeless families to turn over large portions of their meager paychecks – in some cases well over 50 percent – toward the cost of shelter. The Coalition spearheaded a campaign to overturn this misguided policy, which would clearly result in homeless families staying in shelter for longer periods of time by taking away their personal savings needed to achieve permanent housing. Your support forced the Bloomberg administration to reverse its decision. Instead, families will set aside a part of their monthly earnings into a savings account that they can access to leave the shelter system – helping them rebuild their lives more quickly.

Increasing Shelter Capacity

At this time last year, New York’s shelters became so full that homeless men slept on benches and floors. Elderly women were shuttled after midnight to temporary shelters to sleep for only a few hours before being thrown out, often without transportation back to the intake office. When the City refused to increase capacity, the Coalition took legal action, and triumphed. The City added hundreds of new shelter beds, and abandoned its unlawful practices.

Helping Homeless Children Succeed

After a homeless teenager, Rosa, was forced to miss her New York State Regents exam due to the arduous shelter application process, the Coalition began a multi-pronged public campaign aimed at changing the City’s application requirements for families. No child should be forced to miss school while their parents apply for emergency shelter, and certainly not the last test needed in order to graduate early. Within days, the State Department of Education agreed not to penalize families whose sons and daughters must attend school during the shelter application procedure.

Restoring $88 Million for Homeless and Shelter Services

In the midst of record New York City homelessness, Governor Paterson released a State budget proposal that included an $88 million cut to the New York City single adult shelter system. The plan would have forced thousands of homeless people onto the streets. The Coalition partnered with the Bloomberg Administration and elected officials restore this critical funding.

Thank you once again for keeping us strong! Your support allows us to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and stability for homeless New Yorkers in need.

A Day

A guest entry by Tiffany Lange on her experience going through the shelter application process.

For almost all of today, Ethan and I were at PATH. PATH stands for “Prevention Assistance Transitional Housing”…which is run by the Department of Homeless services of New York. We were there because ever since we have been in the place we are in now, we have been in an “investigative” period, where the “workers” from DHS, basically investigate to find out whether or not you qualify for Housing in New York. One of their ways of doing this is by ruling out other options for housing that you might have. When you initially apply you have to give them a 2 year history of where you have lived, accompanied by phone numbers and various documents to back up your claims. This then allows them to verify your story by using the documents and by calling those whom you “claim” to have lived with.

We “moved in” to our place on November 1st, and have been here since. I was told about 8 days after we moved in that we would hear something in the next 3-4 days about whether we had or had not been found eligible. The way they work, is that they will tell you NOTHING if you are eligible, and if you are not, they will politely leave something under your door telling you otherwise. Since this is the 21st of the month, I was pretty sure that we were good. I had not heard anything so I assumed that we were eligible.

That was until we got home last night.

There was a piece of paper awaiting me as I walked in the door last night. The paper informed me that my son and I had been found ineligible and needed to return to PATH that same day the paper was dropped off, before 4:35pm to discuss the reason. If we did not return, then our supposed “silence” would be interrupted as agreement with the choice. Well…obviously I was working and did not get home till like 1am, so imagine my GREAT concern when I saw this notice. When I turned the page to see what the reason was for our ineligibility, it said that it was because I was unable to provide an accurate 2 year history of where we had lived previously. UMMMMMM………NOOOOO.

I had provided an accurate history, and had provided phone numbers. I tried to go to sleep, telling myself I would just go down to PATH the following morning and figure this all out. I was sure that it would take just a few hours and some unfun talks, but we would work it all out.

This morning I got up, got Ethan dressed, and we headed to PATH. Upon arriving there, I was informed that because I “missed” our meeting time yesterday (didn’t matter that I was working), I was going to have go through the whole process from start to finish ALL over again. I called into my work, and settled in with Ethan for what I knew was going to be a long day.

While I was in the waiting room with my son, I met a lot of people, and we all exchanged stories about our experiences with PATH and DHS. To hear what some of them had to say was DISTURBING to say the least. The amount of inhumane treatment that was shared in these stories was unprecedented. To look around at the kids in the room, and to think that it was not only the parents that were being mistreated, but the children by the system as well…..was well….heartbreaking and irritating. The “clients” in the system are treated like prisoners in a way….and are not allotted any sense of self-dignity or respect. To treat people like this in a city where rent control when out the window a LONG time ago, and section 8 is literally SPLITTING families in two, and then to punish individuals by treating them like garbage for having no where to stay….well….it’s freakin backwards folks.

When I finally did get to my “worker”, she informed me that the reason that she put the note under my door, was because there was one person they had not been able to contact, and because of just that one person out of like 5, they had to re-do everything. ALL OF THIS FOR ONE QUESTION! A whole day, to ASK ME ONE THING. A lost night of sleep, fear of being ejected.

They couldn’t have called? Or left a note with my social worker that works right downstairs from where I live? No. Of course not. They want to scare you and make you go crazy.

My question is, when did we say it was okay to treat others like this? When did we write it into our laws and bureaucratic agencies? Where along the line did we start to give permission for this? To tell people to sleep in bathtubs? To split families in two and then punish them for following that rule???? When did we lose our minds????

It can be fixed….with enough loud voices and with the right people knowing the truth.

For as advanced as we are today, it only takes a slight perfect storm of events for an individual to suddenly not have a place to live. And with our current economy, it’s happening MUCH MORE frequently.

This is a battle I want to fight….RIGHT NOW. And it’s a battle I believe we can win. As long as our voice is loud enough. I believe it can be.

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