Today’s Read: Cuomo Criticized for Saying City Needs to Do More to Fight Homelessness

Homelessness has been getting significant media attention lately, with many New Yorkers wondering how to end the suffering of our most vulnerable neighbors. The answer, according to decades of research, is supportive housing. This model pairs on-site supportive services with the stability of permanent housing – the most humane and cost-effective way of giving people with mental illness and other special needs the dignity of a home and the help they need.

The Coalition and other members of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing have been urging the City and the State to work together to fund 35,000 units of supportive housing statewide over the next ten years when the current agreement expires in June. But despite the success of previous agreements and the unprecedented need, Governor Cuomo proposed a mere 5,000 units statewide – only 3,900 of which would be in New York City.

Even so, in remarks yesterday the Governor specifically chastised the City for not fully committing to supportive housing. In response, the Coalition released a statement from President & CEO Mary Brosnahan:

“Supportive and affordable housing is the only cost-effective, long-term solution to the City’s homeless crisis, and we are heartened that the Governor acknowledges its importance. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo has proposed funding for only a tiny fraction of the 30,000 units of supportive housing needed in New York City over the next ten years (with another 5,000 statewide). The City has taken encouraging steps to help ease the homelessness crisis, but it cannot succeed unless the Governor steps up and does his part. The time to act is now.”

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens), who chairs the State Assembly’s Social Services Committee, echoed these concerns when he told the New York Post, “The state has not invested heavily in homeless services over the last couple of years.” A DNAinfo article reiterates why both the Mayor and the Governor must commit to an adequate level of supportive housing in the NY/NY IV agreement:

A 2013 analysis from the city’s Health Department found that the supportive housing units reduced public spending on shelters, incarceration, hospital and psychiatric care by more than $10,000 per unit.

The program also provided stability, reducing homelessness 47 percent among single adults in the first five years. More than 75 percent remained housed after two years.

Douglas Cooper, associate executive director of the Association for Community Living and member of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing, agreed.

“Governor Cuomo is correct, there’s a homeless problem, but it isn’t just a New York City issue, it is a statewide issue as well,” Cooper said. “Supportive housing has proven results in getting people off the street long-term and helping them address their mental and physical health needs.”