Homeless Dept. rejects housing recommendation

Homeless Dept. rejects housing recommendation
A volunteer maps out a place she is asked to check during the Dept. of Homeless Services’s annual homeless count.
By Ivan Pereira

The city Department of Homeless Services is dismissing a report issued two weeks ago that suggested the city take a different approach to housing the growing population of displaced families.

The Coalition for the Homeless recommended that the mayor bring back federal subsidies and place the homeless in unused apartments in the city’s project system to prevent a growing number of families from living on the streets. The city had 8,000 more residents become homeless from 2009 to last year, and 47 percent of them were people who had gotten out of the shelter system only to be forced back into it later, according to the nonprofit’s state of the homeless report.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond took issue with the coalition’s proposals and said the city’s current economic situation would not make its suggestions feasible.

“The coalition’s report is a prescription for bad policy. In typical form, it is based in fallacy and offers no real solutions for those in shelter,” he said in a statement.

The advocacy group did not have any specific figures for the homeless population in Queens in its report, but 10 of the borough’s 18 city homeless shelters are located within southeast Queens.

Several community activists and elected officials have been critical of the placement of large numbers of shelters in neighborhoods such as Jamaica and South Ozone Park. City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who is writing legislation that would limit the number of shelters per community board, told TimesLedger Newspapers last week that the coalition’s proposal was good on paper.

“I think it is an incredible idea once we find out how much [New York City Housing Authority] stock is there, but we need to know how much stock is there for the low-income population,” he said.

Diamond, however, said policies for helping the homeless should result in long-term effects for the residents and their families and not simply move them back into the shelter system.

“The true route out of shelter is not to rely on outdated policies that are irrational in today’s economic climate, but emphasis on employment and linking to key job services that will effectively assist clients to become self-sufficient and return to the community,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.

More from Around New York