Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and members of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) got into a debate at the group’s meeting Thursday night in Middle Village over the lawmaker’s proposed Home Stability Support (HSS) program.
Hevesi told residents at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village that his HSS plan will create a new statewide rent supplement for families and individuals who are eligible for public assistance and who are facing either eviction, homelessness or loss of housing due to domestic violence or other hazardous living conditions.
This new rent supplement would be a bridge between the current shelter allowance — which hasn’t seen an increase in decades — and 85 percent of the fair market rent determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
While JPCA members agreed that the HSS plan was a good idea in theory, they felt that Hevesi’s initiative may make New York a much more attractive option for homeless residents of other cities across the country, enticing them to come to New York for free benefits.
Hevesi did agree that his program, just like any other city program, could be susceptible to people gaming the system, but argued that the number of homeless individuals from out of state are far less than what the JPCA thought.
“From the last fiscal year — which is about from May 2015 to about May or June of this year — we checked to see how many out-of-state families are in the New York City shelter system, the answer is 54,” Hevesi said. “First of all, the people who are saying no, here’s where the data comes from. And I thought the number was low too, but however, that number represents less than half of 1 percent. The numbers come if you FOIL this, and you can do this yourself, FOIL the data from the Human Resources Administration (HRA). That’s their data.”
However, Christina Wilkinson, an active JPCA member, told Hevesi that the numbers from a FOIL request she made with the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) numbers from 2014 show that 17 percent of the homeless in New York City shelters were from out of state. That figure would dictate that as many as 10,200 of the estimated 60,000 homeless people living in New York are from out of town.
Members of the JPCA want Hevesi to work on changing New York City’s right-to-shelter law, which requires the government to provide any homeless individual with a place to stay.
Hevesi said that he is firmly against lifting the right-to-shelter law, and that removing homeless residents from out of state does not solve the core issue of rising homeless numbers, but his HSS initiative does help the bigger problem.