Why It’s So Hard to Stop Being Homeless in New York

At 7 a.m., Donice Ford-Benson is working in the rain on the unfinished 17th floor of 550 Vanderbilt. She’s checking a drain system but pauses for a moment because, even in the downpour, she can’t resist taking in the panorama of Downtown Brooklyn. The spot where she stands will soon be a balcony and belong to whoever buys the condo and the views. According to the developer’s website, the building will be “Setting the Standard for Brooklyn Living.” Construction is almost complete, and when it is, Ford-Benson will then be out of work. She’s been a union plumber for 17 years; it’s a familiar cycle of episodic work, one that has driven her family in and out of homelessness. Currently, her daily commute is between the new standard of living on Vanderbilt Avenue and the Help 1 shelter in East New York.

Over the last several months, I met a lot of working people like Ford-Benson while interviewing homeless New Yorkers. They cut hair, serve food, care for the elderly, and run after-school programs. They’re not an anomaly: 71 percent of the shelter population is made up of families, a third of whom have a head of household who is working. “The new working poor are homeless,” says Christine Quinn, the former City Council Speaker who now serves as chief executive for Win, a shelter provider for women and families. “A lot of them work for the city or not-for-profits. I can’t tell you I don’t have a Win employee living in a shelter somewhere.”

Harder for Homeless to Enter N.Y.C. Shelters, Report Finds

More homeless families are being denied permanent shelter in New York City, and many are being forced to reapply multiple times before the city finds them eligible to enter the system — two trends that burden already fragile families, according to a new report by the Coalition for the Homeless.

State eligibility requirements have been tightened, a change made in November at the request of the city, which is grappling with a strained shelter system that is struggling trying to meet demands. Though the city recently announced a plan to open 90 new shelters over the next five years, about 18,500 homeless people are temporarily staying in hotels and so-called cluster apartments in the meantime.

Four NYC Borough Presidents Urge Cuomo to Back Rent Subsidy Plan to Battle Homelessness

Four of the city’s five borough presidents are calling on Gov. Cuomo to back a rent subsidy plan designed to crack down on homelessness.

Eric Adams of Brooklyn, Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx, Melinda Katz of Queens and Gale Brewer of Manhattan weighed in with just over a week to go before the state budget deadline. All are Democrats.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, is the only one who has not signed on.

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