Troubling New Data Show the Deep Failures of the Advantage Program

Yesterday’s New York Times reported on a disturbing problem that we have written about many times before– the complete failure of the City’s Advantage program in reducing and addressing homelessness. We recently received new City data that show an incredibly high number of families have returned to homelessness after receiving the Advantage subsidy. The Times reports:

An analysis of city data by advocates for the homeless concluded that, over the past three years, more than one-third of families in the program, known as Advantage, have ended up applying for shelter when their rental subsidies dried up and that one-fourth ultimately returned to a shelter.

A Department of Homeless Services report, never made available to the public, illustrates in raw numbers these returns to homelessness (through September 30, 2010).

Yesterday’s City Council hearing touched briefly on the issue and Councilmember Annabel Palma has introduced legislation that would require the City to start reporting data about the outcomes of the program.

We submitted testimony at yesterday’s hearing describing the issue in more detail:

Since it was launched three years ago, there has been a lingering and fundamental dispute about the effectiveness of the Advantage program – a program which provides only two years or less of rental assistance and which is the City’s primary tool for re-housing homeless New Yorkers. On the one hand, Bloomberg administration officials tout the program as an unqualified success and claim that only a small percentage of Advantage households have returned to the municipal shelter system.

On the other hand, people working on the front lines, shelter providers, eviction prevention service providers, legal services organizations, local elected officials, landlords, and affected families themselves see a dramatically different reality. We all see a program that is, by design, destined to fail vulnerable children and adults by cutting them off of rental assistance when they lack incomes sufficient to afford apartment rents. We see a program under which large numbers of former Advantage recipients have become homeless again, with many of them forced to seek shelter again. And we don’t believe that the administration’s claims about the success of the program are credible. This is especially true because the administration fails to describe how many Advantage households out of those not receiving rental assistance of any kind have fallen back into homelessness – because ultimately that is the only way to evaluate the success of a time-limited subsidy like the Advantage program.

Read our full testimony here.

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