Today’s Read: Relapse or Homelessness for Recovering Addicts

A scathing New York Times investigation by Kim Barker details the reprehensible practice of exploiting people who are struggling with addiction and mental illness by placing them in overcrowded, unregulated “three-quarter houses.” Rather than providing services and support to people in need, the operators of these dangerous homes reap significant profits while sometimes even encouraging relapses.

The Coalition documented the troubling rise of such illegal boarding houses in the 2008 report “Warehousing the Homeless.” Since then, predatory landlords and shady organizations have continued to profit off the most vulnerable New Yorkers. The use of three-quarter houses increased dramatically under Mayor Bloomberg, whose administration considered these unsafe and inappropriate placements a way to reduce the shelter census.

The article has already spurred Mayor de Blasio to form an emergency task force to investigate three-quarter houses. He stated, “We will not accept the use of illegally subdivided and overcrowded apartments to house vulnerable people in need of critical services.”

Barker’s article explains:

Three-quarter houses, also called sober or transitional homes, are a product of the murky world of outpatient substance abuse treatment for the poor. Their numbers have grown in the past decade, as the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed to reduce shelter rolls and the economy sank.

The homes promise a better future, with aspirational names like Freedom House and Miracle House. But sex offenders live in some three-quarter homes. Fires have damaged others. In May 2014, parole officers sent a mentally ill man to a three-quarter house run by a group called MCM Faith. Nine days later, in a crime that attracted widespread attention, he fatally stabbed a boy and injured a girl in an elevator of a Brooklyn housing project, the police said.

No one knows exactly how many of these homes exist today. Robert Kent, chief counsel for the state substance abuse services agency, mentioned a colleague’s estimate that there might be 600 in Brooklyn, while testifying in a case involving three-quarter homes in December. Mr. Banks, of the Human Resources Administration, said that the figure seemed high but that the homes are difficult to track because “they pop up and go away.”

The troubled people who wind up in the homes have few options. Many see the city’s shelter system as even more dangerous. Single people on public assistance have received the same housing allowance since 1988, $215 a month, not enough for much of anything in a city where the median monthly rent is more than $1,200.

The Coalition has long warned homeless New Yorkers about the dangers of three-quarter housing. If you are currently in a three-quarter house or worry that you are being pressured by your shelter to accept a three-quarter house or room placement, please come to our Crisis Intervention Program.