Today’s Read: Cuomo, Keep Your Word on Housing for the Homeless
Supportive housing has been proven to be a vital tool in the fight to end homelessness. By pairing the stability of a permanent home with on-site support services necessary to address mental or physical health issues, this innovative model breaks the cycle of chronic homelessness and enables vulnerable men, women, and children to thrive. The conclusive research and client testimonials proving the effectiveness of supportive housing make it all the more frustrating that State leaders have prioritized political gamesmanship over the wellbeing of New Yorkers in need, by failing to release supportive housing funds allocated in last year’s budget.
Governor Cuomo received praise from advocates when he pledged to develop 20,000 units of supportive housing over 15 years in his 2016 State of the State Address, and his 2016 executive budget included a five-year $2 billion housing and homelessness plan for the first 6,000 supportive units. But at the end of the legislative session in June 2016, the Governor and legislative leaders released only a fraction of the funds and subjected the remaining $1.9 billion to a still-unresolved Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The Coalition and other members of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing rallied outside Gov. Cuomo’s Manhattan office for 32 Wednesdays to urge him to negotiate and sign the MOU, but the weeks and months passed without an agreement.
The State is now in the last weeks of its FY 2018 budget process, and it is up to the Governor to finally follow through and ensure that the supportive housing funds are released. The 88,000 homeless New Yorkers statewide – including 62,692 in NYC shelters each night – cannot afford any further delays.
Shelly Nortz, the Coalition’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy, wrote an op-ed in The Journal News calling on Gov. Cuomo to keep his promise and ensure that the supportive housing funds are in the budget.
Who would stand in the way of helping the homeless after promising the most ambitious supportive housing effort in the nation?
Who would block supportive housing when studies throughout the country have repeatedly demonstrated that it pays for itself by reducing medical and psychiatric hospitalizations, detox and rehab programs, shelters and incarceration? In New York, placing homeless individuals in supportive housing has been found to save our government $10,100 per year, per tenant.
Instead of working to get the MOU signed and the funds released, the governor pointed fingers. He blamed lawmakers, saying he just couldn’t convince them to sign the MOU. He put out a press release, claiming to have unilaterally signed the MOU, hardly a promising negotiating tactic.
He even repeated his initial pledge to build 20,000 units of supportive housing when he presented yet another annual budget this past January — taking another opportunity to blame lawmakers for the state’s inability to release the funds he had promised a year earlier with such great fanfare.
So, imagine our surprise this week when both the Senate and Assembly included funding for supportive housing for the homeless in their budget resolutions. In fact, as Cuomo dithered, even his rival took action. Earlier this month, de Blasio published an RFP providing funds for the construction of 7,500 units of supportive housing for the homeless over the next 15 years.
Now it seems like everyone else is trying to send the governor a message: The time for excuses is over.
Now that everyone is on record supporting $2.5 billion for supportive and affordable housing in the 2017 budget, including the $1 billion needed to fund the first 6,000 supportive housing units, the only thing keeping thousands of homeless New Yorkers from the supportive housing they need is the willingness of the governor to lead the budget negotiation to a successful conclusion.
Maybe this will be the year Cuomo keeps his word. Assuming, of course, he meant it in the first place.
If you’d like to help us hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for his promise to homeless New Yorkers, please join the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing for our final push for supportive housing at our 33rd and 34th Wednesday actions outside Gov. Cuomo’s Manhattan office.
SUPPORTIVE HOUSING RALLIES
Wednesday, March 22nd and Wednesday, March 29th
Governor Cuomo’s NYC Office
633 3rd Avenue (between 40th and 41st streets)
All are welcome!