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.