According to New York 1 Mayor Bloomberg is blaming rising populations in NYC homeless shelters on “out-of-town homeless” seeking shelter in NYC. According to the Daily News out-of-town families in shelters have increased by 48% since 2008. Besides the immediate question of why we should only care about homeless families who are from New York City, the issues of increasing homelessness and lack of shelter space raises serious concerns about city housing policies around homelessness.
Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless, disagreed with the mayor. In his words:
“The real problem is we have record and rising homelessness in New York City,” Markee said. “The real problem is we have high rents and low wages. And the real problem is that the mayor’s policies are not working.”
We have seen, through our work, tenants being displaced by predatory equity and foreclosure. If this occurs, tenants often have no where to go except for the shelters. This crisis was intensified when the city moved to cut the Advantage program which had the specific goal of assisting homeless families. The Advantage program was created to temporarily help families pay rent so they could move out of the shelter and into an apartment. Unfortunately, the program was cut earlier this year even though there were 15,000 families who were enrolled in the program at the time. Since other rental assistance programs like Section 8 and the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) are either too full or have stricter restrictions on who can qualify, many people who lost the Advantage subsidy have no other recourse for rental assistance.
Whatever the reasons are for raising homelessness and lack of space in shelters, we all need to revisit programmatic solutions to help families both in shelters and those who are at risk of losing their homes.
Watch the video and read the full NY1 article here.