According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in New York City has reached “the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s” with over 61,277 homeless individuals. The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 47% higher than it was ten years ago, and a 20% higher since Mayor de Blasio has taken office.
According to the Independent Budget Office, the number of homeless children in our public school system rose by 15% during de Blasio’s first year in office, reaching nearly 33,000 in the 2015-16 school year.
This year’s budget for the Department of Homeless Services is almost $2 billion. Unfortunately, no amount of money will be enough to stabilize the crisis without a workable plan.
Steve Banks who, for the past 20 years has sued the city for its mishandling of the homeless, is now in charge of the Human Resources Administration. Under his leadership the agency no longer forecasts the number of people in need of shelter so it is unable to plan for capacity. HRA has also lowered eligibility criteria, allowing formerly ineligible applicants to begin flooding the system.
HRA has also relaxed the rules of the shelter system. Because clients are no longer removed for bad behavior, the shelters have become unsafe. Because demand for space is so high, HRA has been less proactive about transitioning clients out of shelters and onto a path of independent living. As a result, more people are dependent on city government for their housing needs.
Since the de Blasio administration stopped forecasting the number of people in need of shelter, they could not plan for capacity. They relaxed eligibility rules which allowed formerly ineligible applicants to begin flooding the system.
People were no longer removed from shelters due to bad behavior and they have been less proactive in transitioning homeless people out of the shelters and onto a path of independent living – instead people were allowed to become dependent and remain dependent on the city for their housing.
We may never solve the problem of homelessness, but we can reduce it by identifying problems that can lead to a family becoming homeless and implementing preventive measures.
Increase Affordable Housing Options:
Free Up Space in New York Public Housing
Provide incentives for singles or couples who occupy multi bedroom apartments within the New York City Housing Authority to downsize to smaller apartments. Incentives include moving costs and 20% rent reduction (currently a person occupying a NYCHA apartment pays 30% of their income no matter the size of the apartment. The average tenant spends 20 years in NYCHA. Families with children, who have reached adulthood and moved out, remain in their large apartments because they have no incentive to downsize. This results in approximately 1/5 of NYCHA apartments being under occupied.
Work with Governor to sign a “New York/New York IV Agreement”
Create 30,000 units of permanent supportive housing to reduce our homeless population, relieve our reliance on shelters, and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in avoidable expenses. In the first five years of the “NY/NY III Agreement”, signed in 2005, chronic homelessness among adults was reduced by 47%.
Create an At-Risk Rent Subsidy
Provide a rent subsidy for working at risk families who agree to job retraining in order to secure a position that will elevate their income level. This 36-month program will demand an annual recertification and require that the children of any recipients attend school.
Create Permanent Assisted Housing for Those with Severe Health Conditions
Fit out unused hospital rooms within City Hospitals (HHC) as supportive housing units for those with severe health conditions. Retrofitting unused space within City facilities will provide severely mentally ill and disabled individuals with the ability to live independently yet near to medical support as needed.
Work with non-profits to administer the program to ensure that clients who need on-site mental and physical health care avail themselves of the services. The non-profit will be audited annually for client retention and success.
Prohibit the Use of Hotels as Shelters – Hotels are inappropriate for families because they lack a kitchen. Strictly prohibit the use of hotel rooms as shelter for more than 7 days.
Address Underlying Issues:
Create a Domestic Abuse Relocation Program
26% of shelter residences are victims of domestic violence. It is the number one reason for entering the shelter system. The Malliotakis administration will provide those fleeing an abusive family member with public assistance benefits, psychiatric support and parenting classes plus job training to help the family recover from the abusive situation and reduce the risk of reoccurring abuse. This 60-month program will demand an annual recertification and require that the children of any recipients attend school.
Direct Homeless Individuals Suffering From Addiction Toward Rehab and Sober Living
The Malliotakis administration will provide addicted individuals with an option to enter 30 Day detox followed by a 180 day stay at a sober living facility where s/he can learn how to live without the use of drugs or alcohol. Providing addicted individuals with the skills to live sober will help that person stay sober.
Establish Pop-up Walk-in Intake Centers
n order to make services available to those who need them most, we will establish pop-up intake centers in areas where there are high concentrations of homelessness. Pop-up intake centers will be open 24-hours to assist homeless families and individuals to ensure they receive the help they need. Each center will include a case worker, a psychiatrist, a drug addiction specialists, teen counselor, family counselor and physician to help establish a plan toward future self-sufficiency.
Increase Opportunities for Assistance
Establish an interagency Homeless Outreach Task Force comprised of NYPD, Sanitation, the Department of Homeless Services, MTA, New York City Transit, Parks, the Department of Transportation, and the Human Resources Administration to search for street homeless and provide them with the services they need. This unit will escort individuals to 24-hour pop-up intake centers so they can be evaluated and provided services to address their underlying issues. The pop-up centers will be located in areas experiencing a high volume of street homeless. Encampments will be removed and cleaned to discourage others from utilizing the space. Representatives of various agencies will meet monthly until street homelessness is eliminated.
Establish and Maintain Firm Eligibility Requirements
Establishing firm eligibility requirements within the law will ensure that those needing public assistance receive the services they need. Those seeking shelter from the city must exhaust all housing options before they can become eligible to receive public benefits. Once a client is deemed eligible for benefits s/he will be mandated to participate in an education, job training and/or mental health assistance program to acquire the training necessary to live independently.
Enforce Behavioral Standards
Shelters must be a safe haven for those who are in need of emergency housing, therefore anyone demonstrating anti-social or violent behavior will be removed to a medical facility where they can receive the psychiatric help they need.
Require Enrollment in the Work Experience Program for Those Who Are Able
Employment provides individuals a healthy sense of purpose and prepares them for a successful and fulfilling life. The Malliotakis administration will work with local unions and developers who receive tax incentives to create apprenticeship opportunities for those who are able.
Implement Performance Evaluations for Non-Profits
There are a multitude of non-profit organizations in New York City whose mission is to support people in need of shelter. Under the Malliotakis administration, eligibility for funding of these entities will be tied to their success rate. Annual audits will be conducted and funding will be elevated or decreased in accordance with the success of the program. Those programs found deficient will not be funded in the following year.
Develop Accurate Projections and Planning
By utilizing available public benefit data we will create accurate homeless projections in order to plan shelter capacity and add beds where needed.
Allow the NYPD to Enforce the Law
Loitering, littering, public urination and other quality of life laws will be regularly enforced to send a message to those who resist help and treatment that their behavior is socially unacceptable.