On Monday afternoon, February 11th, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gave her final “State of the City” address as Council Speaker at City Hall. She spoke about education, jobs, economic development, New York City as a collection of neighborhoods, and much of the coverage of her speech was about its focus on affordable housing for New Yorkers. You might not have heard as much about the part of her speech that addressed homelessness, but take a look at these 3 paragraphs from her address:
"As we work to provide all our neighbors with an affordable place to live, we can’t ignore the growing number of homeless New Yorkers. There are currently 10,000 families living in homeless shelters in New York City, some with children just a few months old. If these kids are going to have a fighting chance, we need to get their families back on the path to stable housing. But for many, our shelter system has become a dead end. Without a rental assistance program for the homeless, most families have no way to access long term housing.
They either end up back on the street, or return to crowded shelters night after night. That’s not the New York City we know. This is a city that catches you when you fall, and helps set you back on your feet. That’s why Council Member Annabel Palma and I are calling on the City to create a new program to get homeless families off the streets, out of the shelters, and into their own homes.
Working together we can create a brand new rental assistance program to help families cover rent in private buildings. And we need to prioritize homeless New Yorkers for NYCHA apartments and Section 8 vouchers, so we can get even more families into long term stable housing. By the way, this isn't just the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four is $800 a month. To house that same family in a shelter? $3,000."
We thank Speaker Quinn for recognizing issues that affect homeless people as central to the state of our city and its future. What’s more, as Care for the Homeless has testified to City Council in the past, she’s right that a new rental subsidy program and targeted federal housing programs are needed to help people experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing. And we couldn't agree more that these good public policies aren't just the right thing to do, but that over time they are really the most cost effective approach.