By Bob Harris
Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi sees the problems facing communities due to homelessness and the problems caused by attempting to solve the dilemma, so he has suggested a solution.
The city hasn’t found a fix and the number of homeless people now seems to be hovering around 63,000. . The city now spends $1.6 billion to house the homeless in shelters and hotels.
Hevesi’s plan is for the state to provide rental subsidies to families living in apartments or houses who are being priced out of the market due to high costs. The subsidies will make up the difference between what the public assistance families regularly receive and the actual cost of housing. His Home Stability Support plan would replace all existing city and state rental subsidies with a single new state-wide subsidy. This would be for residents eligible for public assistance.
This plan was proposed by Hevesi in 2016 and has been supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle in Albany, religious and advocacy groups and mayors all over New York State.
Instead of receiving full support from Albany, however, only $15 million was appropriated last year as a pilot program to be used for 200 families in New York City and 40 families in the Rochester. The cost of the full HSS plan would be $450 million, yet Hevesi believes that getting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to agree to the $15 million is at least a small victory.
Homelessness is a big issue for communities and the civic and tenant associations which comprise the neighborhoods of Queens. While it is a social necessity to help the homeless, concentrating them in communities in hotels can cause problems.
While most homeless families and individuals are good people, some are dysfunctional, mentally ill, or drug addicts who just don’t want to take the medicines prescribed for them and act out in public or in their shelters.
Civic leaders at Queens Civic Congress meetings talk about people from hotel shelters who take off their clothing in the street, fight among themselves, pressure people on the street for money, defecate in the streets and disrupt the quality of life in some areas. Seeing clothing all over streets is a sign of a troubled community.
People rally against using hotels as homeless shelters because of the disruption it can cause in a neighborhood. There is the concern that families with children are taken too far from the original school the children attended and that hotel rooms without refrigerators, desks or good lamps are not good places for a child to be in when homework has to be done. Then there is the concern about unreported or underreported crime and the quality of social services available for the residents of these hotel shelters.
The people of Middle Village were so concerned about hotel shelters that they voted Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley out of office.
It wasn’t that she was a bad legislator or did not care about the issue, because I have met her at events when she was donating food to the needy.
But her rival, now Councilman Bob Holden, led demonstrations and was vocal about the issue, so the people noticed and voted for him.
It is hoped that Albany will evaluate the HSS plan and alleviate some of the homelessness problem in the next session of the legislature by allocating more money for the program.
Good and bad news of the week
The federal government has decided to issue new Medicare cards without our current social security number.
Instead, the new cards will have a combination of 11 numbers and letters. The new numbers are supposed to cut down on fraud by criminals who get your old Social Security number.
The new cards are being issued throughout the next year. However, scam criminals are calling people asking for money for the new cards and for people’s bank numbers. Hang up! The cards are free.