Today’s Read: NYC Effort to Help Homeless Makes Slow Progress

The City has taken key steps to combat homelessness, but with the shelter census stubbornly hovering at near-record levels, it is clear that further action is needed.

The de Blasio administration has refocused the City’s homelessness strategy on housing-based solutions by creating a host of new rental voucher programs and dedicating resources to eviction prevention efforts. Without these initiatives, it is likely that the shelter population would have continued its steep rise instead of leveling off around 60,000 people per night. In order to substantially reduce the number of homeless New Yorkers, however, the City should:

  • Increase the allocation of NYCHA units for homeless families to 2,500, up from 1,500. Public housing is a vital resource, and the City could unilaterally increase the number of annual placements to give more families the dignity of a permanent home.
  • Bring supportive housing units online as quickly as possible, which will provide lifesaving services and stability to New Yorkers living with mental illness and other special needs.
  • Aggressively enforce laws that protect New Yorkers from source of income discrimination – so that landlords cannot wrongfully turn away clients who are trying to find housing with a voucher.

Additionally, the Governor must play a role in funding housing-based solutions – most notably by following through on his commitment to fund 20,000 new units of supportive housing, which to date has been stalled by the lack of action on a required Memorandum of Understanding between the Governor and legislative leaders.

As Josh Dawsey of The Wall Street Journal writes, the City – under the leadership of Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks – has made considerable progress in clearing violations in homeless shelters. But in order to help New Yorkers leave those shelters for good, the administration should build upon their commendable first steps and make full use of housing resources.

In an interview, Mr. Banks said the city is “weeks into reforming 20 years worth of failed policies.” The homeless problem is complex, he said, and shouldn’t be viewed solely through the prism of the shelter population.

In May, the city relocated 157 people off the streets, Mr. Banks said. Officials have put 190 beds in religious institutions as part of 500 additional beds they promised last year, and more are coming online.

The city has begun creating supportive-housing units, which provide shelter and social services, and has ramped up vouchers for homeless residents to get housing, along with providing more antieviction funds and new mental-health programs.