A Chance for Review, Reflection and New Start
Yesterday (5/28), Seth Diamond, the NYC Commissioner of Homeless Services, announced his resignation to accept a post in the Cuomo administration. Commissioner Diamond led the agency at a particularly trying time and had a reputation for hard work and long hours. But like any changing of the guard, his departure should be both a time to recognize his work and to reflect on policy.
Care for the Homeless believes bad public policy decisions are the cause of modern day homelessness, and better policies can end homelessness as we know. Perhaps the biggest driver of modern homelessness was cuts in federal funding for affordable housing. But New York City can and must lead the way to better policies to prevent and end homelessness.
For decades the City targeted one-third of its federal housing resources – mostly public housing units and Section 8 rental vouchers – to placing homeless people in permanent housing. In 2004, concerned that the housing priority just drew more people into the homeless shelter system, the City ended that targeting anticipating fewer people in the shelter system but the shelter census just increased.
At the time they ended public housing priority for homeless people, New York established a transitional rental subsidy program to move people from shelters to permanent housing. But about 2 years ago, concerned that the subsidy just drew more people into the homeless shelter system, the City eliminated that program anticipating fewer people in the shelter system, but the shelter census just increased.
And consider this:
Adequate affordable housing for very-low income people, a rental subsidy program for those in homeless shelters and supportive housing for those who need it all promise far better outcomes AND save tax dollars.
We wish Commissioner Diamond well and thank him for his service. We also hope this will be an opportunity for the Department, and the many talented and deeply concerned policymakers in it, to review, reflect on policy and set a new strategy to end homelessness as we know it in New York City.