BY ASSEMBLYMAN ANDREW HEVESI
This holiday season many of us will gather in our homes with friends and loved ones to celebrate. Sadly, for families across the state who face eviction and homelessness, the holiday season is a time of stress and worry over the possibility of losing the roof over their heads.
This is not a new phenomenon, though it is something that we have seen with increasing frequency. Across New York State 80,000 families are on the brink of homelessness. An unprecedented 150,000 children statewide are homeless each year. More than 127,000 men, women, and children slept in New York City shelters in the fiscal year ending in June 2016 according to Department of Homeless Services data.
We have not seen these levels of homelessness since the Great Depression. As the number of homeless families and individuals continues to rise, the impact of this growing crisis can be felt across our society. Homelessness causes unimaginable strain on families, particularly for children.
Yet, we continue to apply the same tired policies to address the problem without achieving the results we need. That’s why I have joined together with a coalition of advocates and elected officials to propose Home Stability Support, a new plan to address our growing homeless crisis.
Home Stability Support (HSS) will be a new statewide rent supplement for families and individuals who are eligible for public assistance benefits and who are facing eviction, are currently homeless, or are at risk of losing their home due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions. This program would be 100 percent federally and state-funded and would replace all existing optional rent subsidies.
Prior to 1975, the vast majority of families on public assistance had their rents paid in full by the state. However, as state and federal housing funding dwindled over the years and rental and living costs skyrocketed, this aid has failed to keep up with the critical housing needs of New York families. Implementing HSS will address this problem.
In addition to serving the neediest New Yorkers, HSS is sound fiscal policy. The current average cost of sheltering a family with children in this city is $38,460 per year.
Home Stability Support, on the other hand, will cost an average of $11,224 for that same family with children. This translates into net savings of $27,000 per year, with similar savings expected in counties across the state. In total, HSS will cost approximately $450 million a year, one third of what we currently spend to provide shelter for the homeless.
Implementing HSS will also reduce the costs of associated services for the homeless such as emergency room visits, law enforcement costs, soup kitchens, and our overburdened courts. Last year, the city’s housing court system heard 260,000 cases, more than two thirds of which involved non-payment of rent. A recent analysis by the NYC Bar Association found that just preventing the evictions of roughly 5,000 households could save $251 million a year in New York City alone.
In light of these clear financial and social benefits, our coalition is urging Governor Cuomo to support the inclusion of Home Stability Support in next year’s state budget. I’m proud to say that we are continuing to gain the support of elected officials and advocates all across the state. In New York City, our Public Advocate Letitia James supports HSS, as does a delegation of more than 30 City Council members led by our borough’s own Council Member Barry Grodenchik. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Congressman Joseph Crowley have recently announced their support for HSS.
This holiday season, when our thoughts inevitably turn to those who are less fortunate and we seek out soup kitchens for volunteer opportunities and donation boxes for our canned goods and used clothes, please take a few moments to show support for this viable solution to the homeless crisis by signing our petition at www.homestabilitysupport.com.
Andrew Hevesi (D – Forest Hills) is a Member of the New York State Assembly from 28th District and Chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Social Services.