New York City has announced that April 30th (next Tuesday) is the termination date for hotel accommodations that the city has been supplying to hurricane Sandy evacuees who are still without a place to live. Some of the displaced Sandy victims have been without permanent housing since October 25, 2012, when the hurricane first hit New York. The thousands displaced by the storm have dwindled to a few hundred, and the city hopes to place them by next week’s deadline.
On Friday, City Council’s General Welfare Committee will hold an emergency oversight hearing on the end of the city hotel program and permanent housing for remaining Sandy evacuees. The hearing will be held at 1 p.m. in the 16th floor hearing room at City Council’s offices at 250 Broadway in downtown Manhattan near City Hall. We certainly hope they all get placed by Tuesday, but like City Council we’re not confident those that weren't placed in the first 150 days can be in the last seven. We hope the City, and City Council, while they are evaluating our ability to respond to mass dislocation and natural disasters, put this issue in the larger context of our homelessness crisis in New York City. In many ways this problem is our larger homelessness problem.
The still unplaced Sandy victims are largely low-income people, many of whom lost their jobs through the disaster, and now can’t find affordable housing in the city. Just like so many homelessness New Yorkers, and like thousands and thousands at risk of homelessness. Certainly everything that can be done to assist these natural disaster victims should be done, but more importantly it’s important the city begin to adopt policies to ameliorate, prevent and end homelessness.
This is so much sadder because we know how to fight homelessness. Availability of affordable housing for very-low income New Yorkers is a prerequisite to successfully doing that. And this problem, with 57,000 New Yorkers in city shelters and over 3,000 more living rough on the streets, won’t go away until we do develop more affordable housing, more supportive housing and better care and services for homeless New Yorkers. What’s more, better health care for people experiencing homelessness, prioritizing some public housing resources for homeless families, providing a transitional rental subsidy to move people from shelters to permanent housing, and developing affordable and supportive housing, all will cost significantly less over time than what we’re doing now.
We hope that’s part of the message City Council hears at Friday’s emergency hearing.