Coalition Testifies on the Department of Homeless Services’ 90-Day Review

On Thursday, the Coalition for the Homeless and The Legal Aid Society presented testimony before the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare about the results of the City’s comprehensive 90-day review of homeless services.

Two weeks ago, the de Blasio administration proposed a series of wide-ranging, overdue reforms aimed at streamlining management and offering more effective service delivery for the near-record number of homeless New Yorkers. These recommendations rightfully acknowledge that problems have plagued the shelter system for years and offer a renewed commitment from this administration to focus on proven-effective solutions. However – as we stated in our annual State of the Homeless Report – the City must take further actions, such as allocating 2,500 NYCHA public housing units per year to homeless families, making 2,500 placements utilizing Section 8 and HPD units next fiscal year, and bringing new supportive housing units online as quickly as possible.

But the City cannot do it all alone. The Governor, State Legislature and State agencies must also work jointly with the City to implement housing-based solutions – most urgently by funding new units of supportive housing this year.

The full testimony can be read here.

Last week, the Mayor announced the results of the 90-day review of homeless service provision that was initiated in December. The results pointed to the need for reforms in many areas and proposed actions targeting both structural and programmatic deficiencies. The main structural change proposed will integrate management systems for DHS and HRA. This reform is intended to improve communication and streamline service delivery for homeless individuals and families who access benefits and services from both agencies. Additionally, the proposed Interagency Homelessness Accountability Council will bring in representatives from other key agencies, including NYCHA and HPD, who play a vital role in providing permanent housing resources for homeless families and individuals.

Programmatic reforms include changes to prevention services, street homeless outreach, shelter conditions, and rehousing programs. Many of these reforms will address significant obstacles experienced by homeless New Yorkers over the past several years, with particular emphasis on shelter safety and greater access to permanent affordable housing.

A few important changes should be noted specifically:

  • Aligning eligibility procedures for adult families with those for families with children will remove excessive bureaucratic barriers adult families too often face when attempting to access life-saving shelter, as many have disabilities.
  • Rescinding the requirement that children of applicant families be physically present at PATH for multiple intake-related appointments is a significant step in the right direction and will help homeless youngsters avoid missing an inordinate amount of school. However, removing children from school even for the family’s initial application interview (which typically takes several hours) is unnecessary. We strongly urge the City to remove that barrier as well
  • The City has also proposed joint task forces with the State to help address myriad concerns regarding discharges from prisons and jails to shelter – as well as improving mental health service delivery for every homeless person in our city. We believe the improved communication and better-quality services resulting from these efforts will prove critical to addressing major systemic problems which have plagued the single adult shelters for literally decades. We urge the State to work cooperatively with the City in these efforts.

‘This is Beautiful’: After 16 Months in a Shelter, New York Family Finds a Home

In late December, three days after Christmas, Shakira Crawford left her three children with her neighbor at a homeless shelter in East New York and rushed into the night to look at an apartment.

“I’m excited,” she said, exuding her usual cheerfulness, despite the near-freezing temperature.

Crawford, 40, spent most of 2015 looking for a way out of a homeless shelter with a $1,500 subsidy from the city. She works full time as a lobby attendant at a Midtown hotel, and she makes $17,000 a year. She got in touch with 60 brokers, but never got a lease.

The State of New York City Rent Affordability in 2016

New data provides quantitative evidence of the widening gap between what New York City households can afford and what they are likely to find in the city’s increasingly expensive and competitive private rental marketplace. According to StreetEasy’s annual New York City Rent Affordability Report, the typical New York City household is expected to spend nearly two-thirds of its annual income on market-rate rent this year, a considerably greater burden than just last year[i].

Using the median rent-to-income ratio, which measures the share of income spent on rent, the typical household in New York City is expected to spend 65.2 percent of its total income on market-rate rent in 2016. That figure was 59.7 percent in 2015, an alarmingly high figure in its own right but nearly six points lower than the forecasted rent burden this year.

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