Queens lawmaker’s homeless relief program wins favor of Community Board 5

Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS

As the city continues to see record high numbers of homeless people and the final fate of the Maspeth homeless shelter still hanging in the balance, members of Community Board 5 (CB 5) voted to support one local lawmaker’s initiative to help keep residents in their homes.

The board voted 32-2, with three abstentions, in favor of supporting Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support (HSS) plan during their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Christ the King High School in Middle Village.

But the vote was not without some hesitation from board members who were concerned with the plan itself. Some members wanted the board to obtain more information about HSS, specifically its bureaucratic structure, before making a formal opinion about it.

Despite the skepticism, many board members believe the HSS plan would help stem the growing number of homeless in the city, and that it is better than the current programs, such as using hotels as temporary homeless shelters.

“We’re in a desperate situation here, using these hotels temporarily,” said Walter Sanchez, the board’s Land Use Committee chair. “We’re trying to go in the right direction. We’re not going to solve the problem of homelessness in Community Board 5, we could discuss it all night long. We would really like your support to send something in the proper direction. The bill might get changed, it’ll get altered, we have a lot of questions about it later on. Let’s vote in support of this bill for now, get it going.”

The HSS plan aims to create a new statewide rent supplement for families and individuals who are eligible for public assistance benefits that are facing eviction, homelessness or loss of housing due to domestic violence or other hazardous living conditions.

Since shelter allowances were created in 1975, the amount given to people and families in need has remained almost stagnant, while the cost of renting or owning a home have risen astronomically, meaning more people are either becoming homeless or are on the brink of homelessness.

According to estimates, the HSS plan would cost $11,224 per year in subsidies to keep a household of three in their home in New York City, while keeping that same family in a shelter would cost $38,460.