James, councilmembers demand changes in homeless policy
Officials call on Cuomo to put plan in state budget
Charging that New York’s homeless problem has become a growing crisis, Public Advocate Letitia James and several city councilmembers are calling on the state to institute major changes in the way people in need receive assistance.
Brooklyn Councilmembers Vincent Gentile, Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso were among the elected officials who joined James at a press conference outside City Hall on Nov. 22 to announce their endorsement of a bill sponsored by Queens Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi to create a Home Stability Support (HSS) plan to increase the state’s rental assistance subsidies.
HSS would help prevent many New York families from becoming homeless, James said.
James and the councilmembers said they want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include HSS in the next state budget to ensure that the proposal would be adopted and would receive adequate funding.
Advocates from the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless stood with the elected officials at the press conference. Both organizations are part of a coalition pushing for HSS.
Prior to 1975, the majority of families receiving public assistance had their rent paid in full by the state. But lagging state and federal housing investments, along with skyrocketing rents, have left tens of thousands of families at risk of losing their homes, advocates said.
A report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that there are 73,523 homeless people in New York City.
“New York City is facing the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, forcing thousands of hardworking people out of their homes,” James said. “For too long, our government has employed a piecemeal approach to providing housing assistance, resulting in inefficient and inadequate support that leaves too many behind.”
Hevesi said he was gratified by the increasing support for his idea. “Our city has long been a leader in finding creative solutions to the greatest challenges we as a society face. The growing homeless crisis is no different. Home Stability Support has the potential to keep thousands of New Yorkers in their own homes in a way that’s both fiscally and socially responsible,” he said.
Levin (D-Greenpoint-Williamsburg-DUMBO), who said that homelessness “is not just a potential tragedy that can happen to anyone, it is a reality for tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” added that the HSS proposal would give the state the opportunity to prevent families and individuals from losing the stability that comes with having a home.
“Homelessness does not discriminate and can rear its ugly head in a New York minute. With surging numbers citywide and statewide, we must continue to search for solutions to stem this proliferation and alleviate our homeless crisis,” Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said.
“The Home Stability Support program will help address our city’s homelessness crisis, keep families in their homes and prevent displacement, all while saving taxpayer money. It’s a smart solution and I encourage our state legislature to implement it quickly,” Reynoso (D-Bushwick) said.
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