By David Brand
The crisis is evident in subway cars, ATM kiosks and even Queens courthouses. In communities across the city and state, thousands of homeless New Yorkers seek warm, and relatively safe, places to sleep.
But the street homeless are just a sliver of the 250,000 New Yorkers who experience homelessness
In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi outlined the state of the homelessness crisis and renewed his push for a “Home Stability Support” bill.
The bill would prevent even more New Yorkers from slipping into homelessness by creating a rent supplement for families and individuals who are eligible for public assistance benefits and who face eviction or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions.
“Homelessness in New York State, already at the worst levels since the Great Depression, continues to grow rapidly and the failure to address this crisis has severe human and financial consequences for the people of New York,” said Hevesi, the chair of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Social Services. “During my time as Chair, New York has seen a dramatic rise in the number of families and children becoming homeless.”
On Jan. 8, 61,033 individuals, including 22,421 children, stayed overnight in a Department of Homeless Services shelter, according to the the city’s most recent daily census report.
Each year, roughly 23,000 more people become homeless than leave homelessness in New York state, Hevesi said. Overall, the state has 250,000 residents experiencing homelessness, including 152,839 school-aged children.
More than 62,300 children have become homeless 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 trauma of homelessness is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences that leads to long-term health, educational, and developmental hardships that can impact them throughout their lives.”
(Hevesi has advocated for more comprehensive services for children who have experienced trauma. He wrote an op-ed on the subject for the Eagle last year.)
The Coalition for the Homeless has endorsed Home Stability Support, stating that “the proposal would stanch the flow into shelters.”
The benefit would “immediately stop the growth of homelessness and provide an opportunity for some currently homeless families and individuals to be stably housed,” Hevesi said. “Once we stop the growth of the crisis, we can engage in policy discussions about how to enable these New Yorkers to leave public assistance behind and escape poverty.”
Hevesi said the cost of the benefit to the state would be offset by savings related to fewer emergency room visits, hospitalizations and stints in jail among people experiencing homelessness.
“Governor, you and I are both fathers and colleagues in government,” Hevesi said. “I implore you to work with your partners in the legislature to stop the growth of this crisis.”