Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy
New Yorkers can celebrate the opportunity for a tool to move people experiencing homelessness from shelters to stable housing because of the last-second success of advocates and policy makers in removing language from the New York State budget that prohibited it.
Yesterday, as state legislators and Governor Cuomo enacted the new state budget, they removed language prohibiting any city in New York of over 5 million (that’s only New York City; the second largest city, Buffalo, has a 260,000 population) from using state money to fund a rental subsidy program for homeless people. That language prohibiting state and federal funding from the old city Advantage program in 2011 has remained in each budget since then.
Just 5 days before this year’s March 31st deadline the prohibitive language was still firmly in place. There were media stories reporting policy makers were saying it was too late in the process to change it.
But client leaders, advocates and public officials championing the cause stepped up efforts in the final hours of budget negotiations and overcame long odds to remove the prohibitive language. That clears the way for a subsidy program absolutely critical to fighting and ending modern day homelessness.
On Wednesday, March 26, City Council held a public hearing on the issue. Care for the Homeless, along with other advocates and people experiencing homelessness, testified about the need for the program. Care for the Homeless testified a long term, flexible and effective rental subsidy targeted to assist people in moving from shelter to stable housing would produce far better outcomes for the families and individuals involved, for every community in the city and would save substantial tax dollars.
Later that day, by unanimous vote, City Council passed a resolution authored by Councilman Ruben Wills and moved by General Welfare Chair Stephen Levin urging the change. A united de Blasio administration, City Council and advocacy community carried the message to Albany. In that effort, Care for the Homeless client leaders and staff participated in a phone call campaign to legislative leaders asking for the change.
Happily, in the final contentious hours of budget negotiations the prohibitive language was removed.
Care for the Homeless' Agenda to End Homelessness is based on the idea that policy choices created modern day homelessness and better policy can help end homelessness as we know it. In New York City, eliminating the previous rental subsidy used to transition people from shelters to stable housing caused an enormous increase in homelessness. Creating a working rental subsidy is a critical part of the better policy that can end homelessness in New York City.
This success isn’t an end, though. It’s a beginning. If you want to join our grass roots campaign to build the better policies that can end modern day homelessness as we know it in New York, sign on by sending your e-mail and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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