The use of “cluster-site shelters” by the City to shelter homeless families in privately owned, often-dilapidated buildings is expensive, unsafe and rife with problems. The Coalition has been urging Mayor de Blasio to transition away from this model – and the Mayor has stated his intent to do so – yet thousands of homeless families still languish in units that are wholly unsuitable.
The myriad problems with the cluster-site system have long been documented by the Coalition and other advocates, and a comprehensive report in March by the NYC Department of Investigation detailed the extreme squalor and numerous safety violations of these apartments – rodents, cockroaches, peeling plaster and more.
Cluster sites, first utilized by the Giuliani administration, are also a massive waste of taxpayer dollars: It would cost less to subsidize permanent housing for these families than to continue paying thousands of dollars to landlords who are profiting off homelessness.
Moving these families into other shelters, which are already at or near capacity, is not an effective solution. Instead, the City must take immediate steps to help homeless families secure permanent housing – for example, with rental subsidy programs and the use of public housing vacancies.
Vivian Yee wrote in The New York Times about the plight of families who remain trapped in cluster-site units while the City decides on a course of action.
The Clarkson Avenue building is one of about 400 private apartment buildings that house more than 3,000 families for whom New York City’s shelters have no room. The city pays nearly $2,500 a month for housing and services per family under a program that advocates for homeless people and even city officials have condemned as expensive, wasteful and ineffective, a failure that has exacerbated the city’s affordable housing crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to end the city’s reliance on this form of emergency housing for homeless people, known as the cluster-site program, an arrangement the city’s Department of Investigation has characterized as by far the most dysfunctional corner of a troubled shelter system.
It is just the latest of many promises concerning the program since it began in 2000. Reports deem it abhorrent. Vows are made to eliminate it. Reforms are tried. Yet the city continues to rely on it.
This summer was supposed to be the end of 60 Clarkson’s time as a way station for the homeless. But with the city juggling a need to house its overflowing homeless population and a determination to cut these private buildings loose, the process of moving homeless families from 60 Clarkson into improved circumstances has been marked by miscommunication, reversals, delays and brinkmanship — with residents stranded in the middle.