Bringing Health Care to the Streets, But For How Much Longer?

There wasn’t much of a description to go on: A black woman in her 50s with one dread down to her waist. She was supposed to have a shopping cart that contained her belongings. She was likely somewhere around Harlem Hospital.

Bonnie Coover, a family nurse practitioner, and Ella Cantrell, a registered nurse, first checked the emergency room where homeless people sometimes congregate. Nothing.

Today’s Read: 95 Faith Leaders Join Push for Passage of State Rent Subsidy Proposal

In our annual State of the Homeless report released this week, the Coalition cited Home Stability Support as a critical tool to reduce record homelessness. The proposal from Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi would bridge the difference between the insufficient shelter allowance for public assistance recipients and market rents by creating a statewide rent subsidy for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. A recent analysis by Comptroller Scott Stringer found that HSS would save the City about $316 million in its tenth year by rescuing tens of thousands of families and individuals from homelessness.

This pragmatic plan has garnered broad support. This week, dozens of faith leaders from across the state signed a letter urging Gov. Cuomo to implement HSS. The faith leaders’ letter comes on the heels of endorsements from four NYC borough presidents, adding to the sizeable bipartisan chorus calling for the inclusion of this cost-effective and compassionate plan in the State budget. The State Assembly, the Independent Democratic Conference, and the Senate Democratic Conference each included Home Stability Support in their one-house budget documents, positioning it well as lawmakers enter the final week of budget negotiations ahead of the April 1st deadline.

Add your voice: Sign our petition calling on Governor Cuomo to support HSS.

Samar Khurshid wrote about the faith leaders’ letter for Gotham Gazette:

 “The problem of homelessness has reached a critical juncture,” reads the letter signed by 95 faith leaders from 15 cities across the state. “The costs to our communities are unsustainable. It is time to boldly and adequately attack the preventable causes of record homelessness.”

The HSS proposal would provide state funding to bridge the gap between state shelter allowances (rental supplements given to those on public assistance, which are between $264 and $447 a month depending on household size) and up to 85 percent of the household’s fair market rent. It would also give local jurisdictions the option to raise that supplement to 100 percent.

“This is a hard one to oppose,” said Marc Greenberg, executive director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing and one of the leaders on the letter to Cuomo. “It’s a choice between keeping a family in a welfare hotel for $3,500 or more a month, as opposed to paying $1,500 to $2,000 to keep them in their homes.”

“The federal landscape is changing, and whatever funds we’re using could be used more effectively this way,” said Greenberg, of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. “The governor would be wise to support this.”

For the coalition of faith leaders, support for the program transcends politics as they fight the homelessness battle on the frontlines. “It cannot be politics as usual when it comes to people’s lives,” said Greenberg. “What the faith community is trying to do is remind lawmakers of the demands of their own faith…If you say you have faith, what does your faith challenge you to do?”

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