Number of Poor New Yorkers Rises Again – One in Five New Yorkers Now Living in Poverty

New data released today by the Census Bureau document the rise and breadth of poverty in New York City. Although the news is not surprising for many advocates, organizations and individuals that see poverty every day, it succeeds in painting a shocking picture of reality for millions of New Yorkers.

Today’s New York Times reports:

“From 2009 to 2010, 75,000 city residents were pushed into poverty, increasing the poor population to more than 1.6 million and raising the percentage of New Yorkers living below the official federal poverty line to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. The 1.4-percentage-point annual increase in the poverty rate appeared to be the largest jump in nearly two decades.”

At the same time that 75,000 city residents were pushed into the official definition of poverty, New York’s wealthiest continued to get wealthier, creating an income gap in Manhattan bigger than any other county in the country. The top fifth of earners made an average of $371,754 — 38 times as much as the bottom fifth making $9,845.

And while the rich get richer, our city’s children continue to be among the hardest hit by poverty. A full 30 percent of New York City children now live in poverty – that’s one in three kids!

The grim reality goes on and on: unemployment rose by one percentage point; the Bronx remains the poorest urban county in the United States; median household income has shrunk to 1980 levels; fewer people have health insurance; one in five people rely on food stamps; nearly 60% of Hispanic single mothers live in poverty…

And as we have already reported many times, the homeless population in New York City hit record levels in 2010.

As we delve into a new year of budget battles and face the probability of more spending cuts for our city’s most vulnerable, the Coalition for the Homeless is committed to pushing harder for better solutions, including renewing the Millionaire’s tax, utilizing federal resources to house homeless families, and maintaining vital public services. We hope you will join us!

Advantage Court Ruling: Bad for Homeless NYers, Bad for Taxpayers, but There’s a Better Solution

As we reported here yesterday, A New York State Supreme Court judge rules late Tuesday against plaintiffs in a lass-action lawsuit challenging the City’s attempt to cut off Advantage rent subsidies for more than 12,000 formerly-homeless households. The court decision was covered by the Wall Street JournalReuters, and NY1 News.

Fortunately there is still an Appellate Division court order in effect requiring the City to continue paying rental assistance for Advantage tenants, but the City will undoubtedly seek to vacate that order — and in any event, the legal struggle on behalf of thousands of vulnerable families and individuals will continue.

We’re written a lot about the flaws of the Advantage program, and about the City’s obligation, notwithstanding those flaws, to honor its commitment to families who left shelter with the promise of receiving temporary rental assistance. But in light of the court ruling, it’s worth highlighting a few facts:

1. Not only are formerly-homeless families the losers in the court decision, but so are taxpayers.

The cost of shelter for a homeless family — a whopping $3,000 per month — is more than three times as much as the typical Advantage rent subsidy ($700-$1,000 per month). So, when thousands of former Advantage families come back to the municipal shelter system, just as thousands have already done, taxpayers will pick up the tab.

As Steve Banks, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society, which represents Advantage tenants in the lawsuit, told the Associated Press:

“By winning, the city loses, since now thousands of formerly homeless families and individuals are at risk of losing their homes and flooding the shelter system.”

2. Homeless families have already lost — and NYC family homelessness is on the rise.

As bad as the danger faced by current Advantage tenants is, homeless families residing in the shelter system now and in the future have already been harmed irreparably.

Simply put, since Mayor Bloomberg ended the Advantage program back in March, there is no housing assistance available to help homeless children and families move from shelter back to the community. Indeed, Mayor Bloomberg is the first mayor since modern homelessness began three decades ago to have no plan for helping homeless families move from shelters to permanent housing.

The results are predictable and alarming. Already there are more homeless families with children crowding the shelter system than when the City ended the Advantage program in March. The homeless family population has grown steadily for the past few months and will no doubt continue to do so. And homeless families are staying in shelter longer: Before the Bloomberg administration cancelled the Advantage program, a homeless family’s average stay in shelter was nine months, and now it is eleven months.

3. There is a better, cheaper alternative.

As we discussed in our State of the Homeless 2011 report, the Bloomberg administration’s failed approach to the problem of homelessness has already led to record homeless populations and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the expensive shelter system.

Fortunately, there is a better way. Mayor Bloomberg ought to go back to the proven, successful policy of allocating one in three Federal housing resources to help homeless New Yorkrs move from shelters back to the community. This sensible approach will reduce family homelessness, save taxpayer dollars, and protect countless children from the hardships of homelessness.

You can join our “One in Three” campaign here.

Advantage Tenants: Important Update

We are sorry to report that the trial court ruled yesterday afternoon that New York City has “no ongoing obligation, contractual or otherwise, to continue the Advantage program.” See the Reuters news article here.

HOWEVER, for now, the appellate injunction requiring continued payments is still in place. The City paid or should have paid September rent payments for all Advantage tenants still in the program. It is still unclear what will happen at the Appellate Court going forward. Legal Aid will provide more information in the coming days, so please check back!

Please visit our page here detailing information on housing court, FEPS, and DRIE.

Download an important fact sheet from the Legal Aid Society here. And in Spanish here.

About the Court Orders:
• These orders only cover Advantage tenants currently within their Advantage lease period.
• Continue to pay your portion of the rent to your landlord on time.
• If you are in the middle of your Advantage lease period but the City has not sent some of your payments for May 2011 or earlier months, call 311 to complain and ask for an investigation.
• Request a fair hearing if you have not already done so. For more information click here.
• Your landlord cannot evict you without taking you to housing court.
• Don’t leave your apartment to apply at PATH just because your Advantage rent has not been paid!

More »