Over this last weekend, “CNN Money” ran a feature report it calls “Paying to House NYC’s Homeless,” but it’s really an endorsement of part of the Care for the Homeless Agenda to End Homelessness. Not that they talk about us or our plan - but what they say supports our advocacy for a transitional rental subsidy program to move homeless families and individuals from streets and shelters to permanent housing, because we can’t end homelessness in New York City without it.
CNN reports “New York City used to have a rental assistance program that cost $10,000 a year per family. But that program was cut, and taxpayers now pay more than twice that to house a family in shelter.” In fact, city taxpayers now pay more than three times the cost of the former Advantage rental subsidy to house families in temporary shelters rather than helping people rent permanent housing. And CNN reports the homeless population in the city shelter system has increased 60% in the last decade.
The CNN report included interviews with academics, advocates for homeless people and city officials, all agreeing the transitional subsidy for people experiencing homelessness was a success, incentivized work, helped thousands of families get out of homeless shelters and saved significant public funds. Not to say Advantage was a perfect program: many of us had issues with the amount of the subsidy, the length of eligibility (never over 2 years) and how hard it was to get into Advantage. But no one in the advocacy community ever advocated its elimination with no replacement.
Columbia University Professor Esther Fuchs told CNN the Advantage program “helped a lot of families get out of the shelters, (but) they decided to eliminate it. It’s actually less expensive, over time, to provide people with that kind of rental support than to keep them in what is a very expensive shelter system.”
This underscores our basic point: Bad public and social policy created modern homelessness; better policies can prevent and end it. Take a look at our Care for the Homeless Policy Agenda to End Homelessness, and sign on as a Care for the Homeless Advocate here.