The City Council is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to provide supportive housing to New Yorkers dealing with disabilities and mental illnesses, and in turn tackle the problem of chronic homelessness in the city.
On Monday afternoon, North Brooklyn Councilmember Steve Levin, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare in the City Council, which oversees homeless issues in the city, led a press conference urging the city and state to sign an agreement to create 30,000 units of supportive housing over the next ten years – an initiative that fits into de Blasio’s 10-year-housing plan.
“To address the record homelessness crisis in New York, we need to utilize proven solutions that work,” said Levin. “We need urgent action on NY/NY IV and we need a commitment that matches the growing needs of homeless families and individuals in New York.”
Supportive Housing, in addition to providing affordable housing to individuals in need, provides support services to address health problems. It is considered a cost-effective and successful solution to homelessness, with supportive housing facilities providing services like mental healthcare counseling, crisis management, help with life skills, job placement, and relapse support – the most common issues faced by homeless individuals in the city.
The City Council’s announcement follows the creation of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing calling for the creation of the 30,000 spaces, an initiative that has already received the support of close to 200 organizations citywide.
Should the city and state team up, it would be the fourth such partnership. Previous efforts to create permanent supportive housing through this partnership were attempted in 1990, and were followed by agreements in 1998 and 2005. The current agreement is set to expire next year, as the city’s homeless crisis has worsened to record levels.
There are close to 60,000 people living in homeless shelters each night, according to the city’s Department of Homeless Services – the highest it has ever been, and that includes 25,000 children. A reported 5,000 additional individuals who either sleep on the streets or in shelters for victims of domestic violence, runaway youth, and victims of HIV/AIDS are not included in that figure.
Currently, 20,000 families are eligible for supportive housing, with only one unit available for every six applicants.
The strong push by organizations and electeds is reflective of the past success such city-state agreements have resulted in. Since the launch of the city-state partnership on supportive housing, New Yorkers have saved over $10,000 per unit per year that would otherwise go to shelter, hospital, and psychiatric treatment center bills; and over 75 percent of the people provided supportive housing in the last agreement have continued to stay on.
“Without a strong NY/NY IV Agreement, there is simply no way to reduce the record levels of homelessness in New York City,” said Mary Brosnahan, President and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless. “Now is the time for the Governor and Mayor to come together to create the permanent supportive housing we know both saves millions in taxpayer dollars and gives those living with disabilities and mental illness the help they need.”