Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Housing Just Isn’t Affordable

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

A new National Low Income Housing Coalition (a Care for the Homeless advocacy partner we’ve worked with advocating for affordable housing for extremely-low income Americans) study reports the average hourly wage a full-time (40 hour-a-week, 52 week a year) required to afford an average two-bedroom apartment is $18.92 an hour.

In a more expensive housing market, finding affordable housing in New York City is much harder. Two-thirds of New Yorkers rent (the national average is about one-third, so affordable rent is more critical here). One-third (1 million) of city tenant households are “rent-burdened” according to HUD (they define households spending over 30% of gross income on housing as “rent-burdened” - their housing isn’t affordable for them). More staggering, 600,000 New Yorkers (20% of all renters) pay over 50% of household income for housing (HUD defines that as “severely rent-burdened”). Several recent studies document New York rents are rising much faster than income.

Most shocking, among extremely-low income New Yorkers (for example a family of 3 earning up to $22,450 – which includes households with both a full-time and half time minimum wage worker) 88% are rent burdened. Even among very-low income tenant households at up to $37,350 annual income, 81% are rent-burdened.

Mayor de Blasio is releasing a plan to save or create 200,000 units of affordable housing over a decade. That’s more, at a faster pace, than ever before in New York City or anywhere in the United States. City Council has proposed more affordable housing funding, including specific new funding resources. This week Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer proposed still more funding, including a program to move some Department of Homeless Services funding to affordable housing as the city can close emergency shelters by moving people experiencing homelessness to newly created stable housing.

All three plans include two major Care for the Homeless policy agenda items: a robust, flexible rental subsidy to move people from city shelters to stable housing and re-instituting a plan to use about one-third of Section 8 housing vouchers and NYCHA public housing units targeted to people living in city shelters. These are important steps on the journey to end homelessness as we know it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tonight, we celebrate Health, Care and HOPE.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for the cocktail reception. The dinner and program begins at 7 p.m.

The Health, Care and Hope Gala
Benefiting Care for the Homeless

Edison Ballroom
240 West 47th Street
New York, NY 10036

Thank you to our generous corporate sponsors and all our supporters. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

City Extends More Compassionate Shelter Policy for Homeless Families with Children

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

In recent years families experiencing homelessness, and homeless advocates, have expressed concern and frustration with the difficulties homeless families with children sometimes faced in gaining access to the city’s shelter system. That’s why the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) decision during the recent brutally cold winter season to waive some of the eligibility requirements and admittance procedures during especially cold times was greeted with such universal appreciation. In life-threatening weather, why not show compassion to homeless families?

But why not show that compassion and concern all the time?

That’s exactly what deBlasio administration policymakers decided to do last week. DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor and elected city Public Advocate Letitia James jointly announced families with children who apply for shelter and aren’t found immediately eligible would nonetheless be allowed to stay the night. Commissioner Taylor, calling it the compassionate thing to do, said “it gives them a moment to think about what the next morning will bring.” 

Public Advocate James, a long-time advocate for people experiencing homelessness and vulnerable New Yorkers, applauded the new policy as bringing “dignity to families.”

Often the reason families may be found ineligible is because of a lack of information or documentation about where they had been staying. The new policy avoids turning families out late in the day and allows adequate time for appealing an initial decision or perhaps gathering sufficient information.

We applaud Mayor deBlasio, Commissioner Taylor, Advocate James and others involved in the new, compassionate policy. It’s the right thing to do.   

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Mobile Health Clinic to Reach 4,000 New Patients

The Mobile Health Clinic is almost ready for its red carpet debut at next week's Health, Care and Hope Gala

Thanks to the generous support of Direct Relief and the contributions of so many incredible donors like you, the program launches this summer. We're offering a sneak peak tour at this year's Gala. 

The Mobile Health Clinic helps Care for the Homeless grow in three ways: 
  1. Program Expansion - reaching over 4,000 new patients in the first five years
  2. Emergency Preparedness - increasing our capacity to join first responders in an emergency
  3. Innovative Services - reaching multiple locations every week, parking near busy shelters and soup kitchens where there is no space to build a clinic on site.
"The hallmark of a mobile health program is how nimbly it can respond. The Mobile Clinic is an efficient, cost-effective way to respond to emergencies, ensuring that equipment is not waiting in storage when catastrophe strikes.  Rather, in non-emergency times, the Mobile Clinic will be out in the community, providing an array of services to our clients, helping to ensure their physical and mental health," says Lizanne Fontaine, Care for the Homeless' Director of Health Services and a Member of the NYC Medical Reserve Corps.

In response to record need, Care for the Homeless is expanding our 30 locations this year, launching the new Mobile Health Clinic and opening two new Dental Clinics for homeless adults and children. We look forward to sharing more stories as the year progresses.

Want to be more involved? Come take a tour. Volunteer with us. Make a contribution to help us continue to grow. 

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Municipal ID: “I Am Somebody”

A municipal ID is a great common-sense and cost efficient way to help many vulnerable New Yorkers access and utilize our city’s human service and safety net programs. As an official government ID it holds the promise of access to banking, cultural, educational and business services too often denied or made difficult to get because of insufficient ID. This will be a tremendous resource for our clients and many other New Yorkers. Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Menchaca and Dromm deserve a lot of credit for their legislation.”                - Bobby Watts, Executive Director, Care for the Homeless

That’s the quote City Council used last week in announcing introduction of legislation to establish a new official city ID. The proposed program, modeled on working programs in New Haven, Connecticut, in San Francisco, California and other places specifically makes it easier, quicker and more convenient for undocumented workers, people experiencing homelessness or major life disruptions, people re-entering society from various institutions and so many others in need to get the ID they need to gain access to vital services, benefits and resources.

The plan, supported by the city administration, has gained broad support from many civic and advocacy groups like ours. We’re hoping it will get a quick hearing and consideration in City Council and promptly be enacted.

One Care for the Homeless client leader that is speaking out on the plan, Gayle Dorsky, noted she had a difficult time when she was without a home in establishing acceptable ID. “That program would have been important to me, and it’s important to so many people in need.”

Please join Care for the Homeless in supporting the proposed municipal ID program, and in thanking the City Council and the deBlasio administration for moving it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Love Letter to Policymakers

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

Advocates to end homelessness in New York City owe policymakers a love letter, so this is ours.
The new de Blasio administration, a new more progressive City Council, new Council General Welfare Chair Steve Levin and their teams are just about 100 days into their responsibilities. And the ship of state is turning.

That’s quite an accomplishment for the highest homelessness rate city in America.

In January, following a decade of crisis growth in homelessness, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) census of city homeless shelters documented just how bleak the situation had become. That month we hit new record census highs for total shelter population (53,615) and children in the system (22,712). Worse yet, over 111,000 people, including more than 40,000 different children, had to use those shelters at some point in 2013. And the duration of stay for homeless families with kids keeps getting longer to its current 435 days (that’s 14 ½ months).

Even that horror story understates the problem because it doesn’t count those in city shelters outside the DHS control (domestic violence shelters, HASA emergency shelters for people living with HIV, veterans’ shelters, shelters for runaway and unaccompanied youth, and more) and it doesn’t count those in non-governmental shelters like small faith based shelters. It doesn’t count people living on the streets, in cars, parks or subways (a 2013 HUD nationwide point-in-time count estimated street homelessness fell 4% nationwide even as it grew 13% in New York City). It certainly doesn’t count tens of thousands of New Yorkers couch surfing with family or friends and on the verge of homelessness.

Incoming policymakers had their hands full by any measure. And expectations were high.
To be clear 100 days isn’t time enough to be judged on funding, execution or implementation and certainly not on results of policy changes. It is time enough to start to chart a new course. That’s being done.

In the March 31st state budget two potentially game-changing policy initiatives were included that were big ideas promising big results. Both were major Care for the Homeless Agenda items that we and our clients have been vigorously advocating. So here are two big thanks for changing statutory language prohibiting state funding allowing for a crucial tool to move people experiencing homelessness from shelters to stable housing, and for including a provision to cap tenant rent in HASA housing to 30% of household gross income. 
Make no mistake, without New York City Council (thank you Chairman Levin, Councilman Ruben Wills,
Commissioner Gilbert Taylor with Care for the Homeless Certified 
Client Advocates Ava Conner and Philip Malebranche 
every member of the General Welfare Committee and the 50 members of Council who pushed on this), the Mayor and his DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, the rent subsidy change simply wouldn’t have happened this year.  The HASA rent cap was a joint mayoral-gubernatorial agreement that made it into the budget after many years of attempts and failures to pass it.

There’s more to thank these new leaders for. Mayor de Blasio has promised “base-lining” important homeless programs in the city budget – like existing health clinics in shelters - taking them out of the annual budget negotiation “dance.” Thank you.

Commissioner Taylor announced an initiative to coordinate city homeless policies among several governmental agencies that impact it, and Councilman Levin is drafting city legislation to institutionalize that. Thank you.

There’s been a commitment to reinstitute priority for a portion of NYCHA public housing units to homeless families, just as there was until the city ended it in 2004. Thank you.

There’s a long way to go and loads more to do. But these are the first steps toward ending homelessness In New York City. We really are thankful to the policymakers taking those steps.

Often it’s not just policy, but attitude, that signals a sea change on an issue. Advocates for fighting homelessness have found strong voices with focused attention in the new leadership. Public Advocate Letitia James has made standing strong for vulnerable New Yorkers a major issue and we thank her. Thank you to virtually every Council Member, with special thanks to leaders like Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Cumbo, Gibson, Johnson, Levin, Menchaca, Palma and Wills.

We were overwhelmed last week when the new First Lady of New York, Chirlane McCray, used a major public speech to promise to use “whatever influence I have” to fight the “unacceptable” homeless crisis in NYC. Thanks again.       

Email Jeff at policy@cfhnyc.org

Thursday, April 3, 2014

We should all do as much as we can to care for those less fortunate.

From one of our extraordinary donors: “I'm glad I could help. I admire your organization – 
we should all do as much as we can to care for those less fortunate.” 

We truly want to take the time to thank all of our donors 
for their continuous support. You change lives and save lives.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Something to Celebrate: Better Policy in the New State Budget

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 policy@cfhnyc.org

We’ll sign you up for our monthly Policy Matters newsletter, too!