CBS New York: Advocates For The Homeless Call For Changes To Help End Crisis

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Advocates For The Homeless Call For Changes To Help End Crisis

April 7, 2015

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A coalition of advocacy groups released a report Tuesday aimed at dramatically cutting the number of homeless in New York City in five years.

The report by the Homes for Every New Yorker coalition says that, among other actions, if the state would raise the minimum wage and Mayor Bill de Blasio would dedicate 10 percent of affordable housing to shelter residents, homelessness would be eliminated permanently, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

Advocates and some elected officials — including City Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Corey Johnson and Public Advocate Letitia James — rallied on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, with some chanting “Housing is a right! Fight, fight, fight!”

“It’s appalling and shocking that one-third of all homeless families in the New York City shelter system tonight are working, some of them two jobs, and yet they cannot afford market-rate rents,” said Patrick Marquis of the Coalition for the Homeless. “If they were earning a $15 minimum wage, many of them would be able to escape homelessness.”

“If you look at the face of individuals who are sleeping in our subway systems and in our parks and on our benches, it’s appalling,” James said.

At 60,000, New York has reached its highest number of homeless people ever.

“Right now, our city is on par as being the capital of homelessness in the United States,” Vocal New York, homeless advocate said.

Saunders said the mayor broke his promise.

In 2013, then mayor-elect de Blasio vowed to change the way the city treats its poor.

“An ever growing homeless population is unacceptable to the future of New York City. It will not happen under our watch,” he said.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, Public Advocate Letitia James joined the mayor and a 12-year-old homeless girl on inauguration day promising not to let down children like her. Since then the number of children in homeless shelters has soared to 25,000.

With shelters at max-capacity James is urging the mayor and city council to use surplus city funds for additional affordable and supportive housing. She also wants the minimum wage raised.

“Homelessness in our subway system at record levels, you’ve got homeless in our malls, streets, all over. Shanty towns, individuals in trailer parks, we have a problem,” James said.

Recently CBS2 reported on a homeless encampment at Herald Square, shanties built in a subway corridor have since been cleared out.

“i don’t know what happened, but it’s pretty clean, they are gone, clean sweep,” PATH employee, Kareem Kinard said.

The homeless were kicked out from below in the PATH station, but there were still a dozen or so lining the blocks on 32nd Street.

Others were sleeping in Penn Station near the New Jersey Transit tracks.

“For the most part you lose everything you start to build and then you lose that, it’s a never ending cycle,” Barbara Smith said.

Smith has been homeless since 2011. She said some homeless choose to live by transit areas rather than shelters because it’s safer and it’s warm and dry.

Pointing out that both the city and state budgets are in surplus, the advocates declared the time for action on homelessness is now.

The group’s other suggestions were to:
 Target more NYCHA public housing apartments to people in the shelter system
 Renew a city-state agreement to create permanent supportive housing
• Enhance city-state rent subsidies to prevent homelessness and rehouse the homeless
 Invest in cost-saving programs to prevent homelessness
 Convert so-called “cluster-site” shelter back to permanent housing
 Expand rental assistance to all low-income New Yorkers living with HIV
 Build housing with developers who use local hire goals and union labor.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, more than 60,000 people are sleeping in city shelters — almost double the number of what it was in 2004.

To read the coalition’s report, click here.

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