Homeless Advocates Demand ‘Home Stability Support’ to Stem Crisis

By David Brand

A large coalition of community organizations and homeless advocates have renewed a push to enact Home Stability Support (HSS), a rent supplement for low-income New Yorkers at risk of being evicted or otherwise becoming homeless.

The HSS bill, first introduced by Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi in 2016, would create a rent supplement for New Yorkers who are eligible for public assistance benefits and who face eviction or loss of housing due to domestic violence or dangerous living conditions. New York State has 250,000 homeless residents, including 152,839 school-aged children, according to state data.

"At a time when New York is facing record homelessness and federal rental assistance programs are eroding, HSS will provide New Yorkers with an essential tool to prevent rising homelessness," said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director, Supportive Housing Network of New York.

Hevesi, chair of the assembly’s Standing Committee on Social Services, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday detailing the state of New York’s homeless crisis and renewing his support for HSS.

The need for some sort of action to stem homelessness is especially acute in New York City. On Jan. 9, 61,113 individuals, including 22,463 children, stayed overnight in a Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter, according to the the city’s most recent daily census report.

On Aug. 31, 2018, 8,180 people residing in DHS homeless shelter were from Queens, according to census data provided to the Eagle by DHS.

More than 62,300 children have become homeless statewide in the last eight years, Hevesi said.

“As a father, I find this fact both shameful and unacceptable,” Hevesi said. “These kids, through no fault of their own, are being forced to contend with hardships and trauma far beyond their years.

The program would not address the needs of people currently experiencing homelessness, but it would prevent even more New Yorkers from sliding into homelessness.

"Home Stability Support will help families across New York to stay in their homes and avoid the trauma of homelessness," said Scott Wagner, managing director of the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center.

HSS would be entirely funded by the state and would replace the patchwork of rent supplements that exist in different municipalities. The cost of the program would be offset by savings related to reduced emergency room visits, hospitalizations and stints in shelters among people experiencing homelessness, Hevesi said in his letter.

Other prominent advocates have also called on the Democratic-controlled legislature to pass the HSS bill and for Cuomo to sign it into law.

"Homeless New Yorkers and those at risk of losing their homes cannot wait any longer for the state of New York to step in with the help they need to obtain and retain their housing. Rents far outstrip the ability of the poorest individuals and families to afford them, leading to relentless and rapidly rising waves of displacement that leave tens of thousands of our neighbors in shelters and on the streets, unable to secure stable homes for themselves and their children,” said Coalition for the Homeless Deputy Executive Director for Policy Shelly Nortz.