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Assembly announces homelessness reduction plan to tackle statewide crisis

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Thu, Mar 12th 2020 03:25 pm

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Social Services Committee Chairman Andrew Hevesi announced an Assembly proposal to establish a comprehensive, $450 million, five-year plan to address the statewide homelessness crisis. The Statewide Homelessness Reduction Plan (SHARP) would provide funding for counties to address homelessness by securing permanent housing instead of costly emergency shelter alternatives such as hotels and motels.

“In the wealthiest country in world, it is unconscionable that so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck,” Heastie said. “We cannot address this complex issue in piecemeal fashion. It is time, once and for all, that we put an end to the homeless crisis through strategic investments that help keep New Yorkers in their homes.”

“Homelessness in New York is at the highest level since the Great Depression and it is still growing rapidly,” Hevesi said. “This program will allow us to stop the growth of homelessness and ensure that New Yorkers have access to safe, affordable housing so that we can engage in meaningful discussions regarding how to help New Yorkers escape the cycle of poverty.”

A press release said, “Permanent housing has been proven to improve health outcomes and reduce costs associated with emergency health care. In addition to improving the quality of life for thousands of New Yorkers, the Assembly’s plan would help districts reduce reliance on costly emergency shelter alternatives, including hotels and motels, and instead focusing on keeping people in their homes and permanent housing solutions.”

Under the proposal, a taskforce of stakeholders in each social services district would be convened, spearheaded by a not-for-profit organization that has demonstrated an ability to work with community stakeholders and an ability to prevent evictions and reduce homelessness. The main objective of the taskforce would be to determine the key factors affecting those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in their districts, and develop targeted strategies for establishing stable, permanent housing solutions.

Counties would apply for funding approval through the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. The plan would provide $450 million in funding over five years with higher funding allocations for the first two years and a slow decrease over the last three years to reflect savings achieved through the investments.

The new plan would serve those who are on public assistance whose rent exceeds their shelter allowance by 250% or more as well as individuals and families who are under 200% of the federal poverty level and experiencing or at risk of homelessness, including those currently residing in a shelter, those that are doubled up or living with friends or family, as well as those at risk of eviction, domestic violence, or hazardous conditions, LGBTQ youth and formerly incarcerated people.

Under the proposal, the taskforce would work with relevant stakeholders, including individuals who have experienced homelessness, to develop comprehensive strategies to address the homelessness crisis. Some of the services they may choose to provide include but are not limited to:

  • Rental subsidies;
  • Housing rehabilitation;
  • Housing advocates/legal representation;
  • Assistance with rental or utility arrears;
  • Assistance with security deposits/moving expenses;
  • Transportation;
  • Behavioral health services; and
  • Landlord incentives.

The number of New Yorkers who were homeless over a recent 12-month period exceeded 250,000 – more than the populations of every city in the state except for Buffalo and New York. In New York City, homelessness has skyrocketed in the past 10 years.

In December, there were 62,590 homeless people, including 14,792 homeless families with 22,013 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up more than two-thirds of the homeless shelter population. These numbers only account for those who sleep in shelters – thousands more sleep unsheltered in city streets, subways and other public spaces.

The press release added, “Research shows the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is a lack of affordable housing. The cost of living has risen steadily as New Yorkers continue to face overwhelming challenges. Surveys of homeless families have identified eviction, doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing, domestic violence, job loss and hazardous housing conditions as immediate triggers of homelessness. The Assembly’s proposal would offer a preventative approach by ensuring families and individuals facing these challenges are able to stay in their homes.”

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