In the midst of the holiday season, and with snow and cold weather descending upon New York, many people wonder how to help our homeless neighbors. Every night, more than 62,000 people sleep in New York City shelters, and thousands more bed down on the frigid city streets.
Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier and New York City Council Member Stephen Levin visited NY1’s In Focus with Cheryl Wills to discuss ways to truly help homeless New Yorkers. They also expressed concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s misguided new Outreach NYC program, which encourages City employees to report unsheltered homeless people but fails to actually provide the low-threshold shelter and permanent housing resources that could help them come in off the streets. Giselle summarized the issue:
“The problem is not that folks on the streets aren’t being talked to by folks in the outreach teams – it’s that there’s not resources behind those conversations that they’re having. So the resources that we actually need to invest in, that the Mayor needs to invest in, are low-threshold shelters and, more importantly, permanent affordable housing to get people off the streets and keep them off the streets.”
Council Member Levin agreed:
“It’s ok to have as many outreach workers as you want, but if you’re not offering people real services that are the kind that they need, it’s not going to move the needle.”
Instead, the City should create more permanent housing to help people move off the streets and out of shelters, which is why the Coalition and other members of the House Our Future NY Campaign have been persistently urging Mayor de Blasio to set aside 10 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan for homeless New Yorkers, with 24,000 newly constructed and 6,000 preserved apartments. Giselle explained:
“The solution to homelessness is housing, and that’s why we’ve been working for the past year and a half with organizations and our allies in the Council to actually push the Mayor to align his housing plan with his homelessness plan. That’s one of the biggest gaps that we’re seeing now with this administration: They’re not putting forward solutions to homelessness that are rooted in housing. The Mayor has this whole Housing New York plan that is structured and financed and has a way to build new housing in the city, and they’re claiming it’s ‘affordable,’ but it’s not actually being produced for the folks who need it most. So we’ve been calling on the City to build 24,000 new units of housing specifically for homeless New Yorkers, and we’ve been working with our allies in the Council on a bill, Intro. 1211, that would require every new development that gets City financing to set aside a minimum of 15 percent of those units for homeless households. We’ve got a veto-proof majority now, and we’ve got the support of Speaker Corey Johnson, so we’re really excited and hopeful that will move forward and actually help push this administration to do the right thing.”
Council Member Levin reiterated that stable housing is essential to all aspects of life:
“One of the most difficult impacts of being without a home is just how destabilizing it is on any number of other levels, whether it’s health, or jobs, or anything like that. The first thing is being able to have a place consistently to lay your head at night, and everything kind of goes from there.”
Watch Part I and Part II of the interview on NY1’s website.