Monday, March 14, 2011

Draconian State Cuts Slated for Department of Homeless Services Work Advantage Program

A few days ago I posted about a rental program called "Work Advantage". It is a rental subsidy program that helps "working" families or individuals move out of the City's shelter system by paying a portion of their rent. Due to State budget cuts the programs is seriously at risk. Present funding is derived from Federal, State and City government. As of today the 3,000 vouchers held by individuals presently living in the NYC Shelter System are null and void. More drastic is the threat that approximately 15,000 individuals presently living in homes or buildings may also loose their subsidy. If that does become the case, the trickle effect in the multiple residential property market would be devastating. Communities where these vouchers are common, which includes large swatches of the Bronx, will be hardest hit. Besides the press release taken from the NYC Department of Homeless Services website posted below, I also posted two articles. One from The New York Times and one from The Wall Street Journal. Both have a slightly different take on the elimination of vouchers for renters presently in their apartments. There is a audio interview as well on the Department of Homeless Services web site were Mayor Bloomberg and NYC DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond discuss the realties of the programs elimination. Please do see the link to the NYC DHS web site below if interested in hearing the discussion between Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Diamond.

Fighting for Advantage

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $132.9 billion budget for New York State, aiming to reduce year-to-year spending and slash projected expenditures on issues such as education and healthcare. Included in his cuts, was his proposal to abruptly terminate the Advantage rental assistance program, which currently subsidizes the housing of 15,000 formerly homeless residents. As these and other households return to shelter without the program, the governor’s cuts would not only prove detrimental to low-income New Yorkers, but also to the City as a whole. Causing an estimated 13,000 additional families to enter shelter by June 2012, the elimination of Advantage would inevitably result in the regression of the system and an end to the outstanding progress that has been made.

As the City’s housing subsidy for families and individuals exiting shelter, Advantage supports working households and helps them return to homes of their own. Although Advantage tenants are required to contribute a fixed portion of their income toward the monthly cost of rent, the program covers the remainder of the payments (up to a cap). Without the State’s share of funding for the program, the City will be unable to maintain the subsidy.

Seth Diamond, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), distributed a letter to brokers this week, informing them of the potential eradication of the program and the agency’s decision to cease further lease signings, effective after the close of business Monday, March 14. If and when State funding is restored, DHS can and will reverse that decision.

Since its inception in April 2007, 20,272 families have exited shelter with Advantage. Of the families who received the two-year subsidy, more than 90 percent have remained in the community after completion of the program. By this rigorous measure Advantage is clearly an important bridge for families to get back on their feet and prepare for life once the subsidy is no longer available.

The loss of Advantage would prove devastating to DHS, and to the homeless New Yorkers the agency serves on a daily basis. On Tuesday, March 8, DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond travelled to Albany to lobby for the restoration of this funding, as the department continues to fight for a program that has enabled so many households to transition back to independence.

“We have worked too hard and come too far to revert back to the shelter system of yesterday,” said Commissioner Diamond. “Without Advantage, the landscape of homeless services would appear dim– and thousands of New Yorkers would be deprived of an innovative and beneficial program.”

With no Advantage, and no new Section 8 vouchers currently available, families would undoubtedly remain in shelter for longer timeframes; in fact, DHS estimates that the family census will increase by a startling 50 percent by June 2012. The cut would also be catastrophic to formerly homeless clients in the community– tenants who have obtained leases through the program and have only just begun to stabilize in their apartments. No longer receiving the subsidy, these households would soon be at-risk of eviction and shelter re-entry– sending them in a downward spiral of confusion and upheaval.

In his proposal, Governor Cuomo paints his cuts to Advantage and other programs as “cost-saving;” however, such reductions will inevitably have the opposite effect. A growing shelter census will require the opening of at least 70 new shelters in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs– a venture that will cost taxpayers an additional $80 million for shelter and related programs. In order to fund these new expenses, reductions will have to be made to other initiatives that serve low-income New Yorkers. Triggering a domino effect, the elimination of Advantage would indirectly reduce funding to other worthy causes, including child care services, job training programs and job placement efforts.

In the year since his appointment to DHS, Commissioner Diamond has taken steps to strengthen the agency’s focus on employment, while also stressing the value of personal responsibility among clients in shelter. Advantage has been a keystone in these efforts, and has remained a vital source of assistance for homeless families working toward better futures.

DHS firmly believes that linking clients to housing and work supports is not only good public policy, but also an effective strategy for helping New Yorkers overcome homelessness and become self-sufficient.

“Right now, our system is one of solutions– one that provides households the tools they need to get back on their feet,” said Commissioner Diamond. “A world without Advantage is not a picture that anyone would want to see: families languishing in City facilities for years on end, children spending birthday after birthday without homes of their own. We have to fight for this program, and for the homeless New Yorkers we serve.”

To log onto NYC DHS website please log onto the following web site


Anonymous said...

I am actually in a shelter with my children, have been for a few months and worked really hard saving a maximum of money to find housing. I did, just last I hope that my deal will be on and I will be able to get out of here.
I understand the budget needs to be readjusted but how can Bloomberg and his pals just take back their promises to all those families already home or on their way home??? Something better is coming I hope.
NOw, I know they have been a lot of cases in court of families not paying for their share last year...this is tough for the honest hard working people who are trying to get out of the shelter.
I know something better will come along, I believe in God. May he bless us all...even those who only think about filling up their pockets and their pals'.

Anonymous said...

I have been in the shelter system since june 2009 with my 8 year old we have both been tramatized by the whole process its literally like bieng on a work release program with the curfew and not bieng granted passes to visit family..I was linked to a beautiful one bedroom apt in brooklyn and now the voucher has been taken away from us I have been up crying since 1 am its now going on 5 the worst part I found out from a friend the caseworker didn't even inform us of this change we are lost and forgotten in new york .

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your apartment annd pray that other solutions will soon come along for people like us. WHen it comes to the caseworkers, I have been very disappointed. DHS should check on the people their have worker at the end of the line with people in very difficult situations.
I personally built up anxiety and almost paranoia when I was faced with people who don't hold on their appointments, switch attitude from one day to another really are un professional and unreliable. I know it is difficult for them with the little means they have but being honest would allow us to look and plan for different ways to handle the problems. My housing specialist and her director just kept on making me go around and prentending to help, never gave me any useful information except for the day I got my voucher in almost 3 months!!! I pray for them to get a conscience or some professionalism at leaat.
Let's watch the situation unravel and take any positive action possible.
Do take care and know that there is always a way.

Boogiedowner said...

Dear Anonymous:

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. I hope and wish you the strength to stay strong in these trying times. At the very least,please know my prayers are with you.


Anonymous said...

In addition to praying, why not use your real estate contacts to find some good owners of two family house who will rent an apartment to these people at an affordable rate. That would be a gutsy but good move.

Anonymous said...

I am in a state of panic. I lived in the system with my children and grandchildren for almost three years. We were treated like criminals. You become the property of the system. The casemanagers dont do anything to help. They hardly show up! This is very true. Curfews, sign in, sign out. I have the workadvantage program and am praying that I have my apt by the end of this year. This will have a devastating effect on all..especially the children. I personally will become another statistic on the street. I refuse to be held hostage by the system again. What confuses me is the shelters charge over $3,000.00 dollars a month, plus foodstamps and cash assistance. Does this sound like the government is saving money. I know that would be at least $2000.00 more a month than letting me keep my home. I might add too that HRA is guilty of NOT helping with Child Support. They can make all the appointments in the world for you and tell you, you will be sanctioned if you dont comply but they do nothing with all the information you give them. And as much as I cant stand Mayor Bloomberg, this is not his doing. This is our Governors decision. Dont tax the wealty and throw the poor out on the streets. Its a damn shame and I pray real hard that somebody is fighting for us because I will not survive the loss of home again. My family and I wer in the shelter system for five months before we saw food stamps. And while my family lost over 60 pounds, casemangers kept telling us to keep drinking water! Dear God, I feel sick to my stomach right now with nerves!! I want to be positive but I cant. We alredy lost so so much.I pray that somebody with money is out there fighting for us. At the rate things are going, the only people living in NY will be millionaires and tourists.

Anonymous said...

The Advantage program has officially ended for all clients. No further rent will be paid. Effective immediately.

Anonymous said...

Feed up and scared of becoming Homeless once again I am willing to do whatever it takes to help my fellow homeless and formely homless families to stop the insanity I am interested in staring a class action suit and anyone interested can contact me at
Now let me tell you my story in 2003 we became homless due to my husband losing his job and the birth of my disabled son We stayed in the shelter fo 6 months and were put on the hsp program We stayed in our apartment happy and doing our part until they pulled funding on this program causing us to become homless for the second time Again we were back in the shelter my son older and the questions neverending How come we don't have a kitchen anymore ? Where are all my friends ? Where is my room? Heartbreaking as it was we continued to have hope with the promise of a new program that would NOT have the funding pulled We first took fixed income found a
beautiful 3 bedroom in south ozone park with a wonderful and understanig landlord When fixed income was up we flipped into work advantage and justy signed our new lease on 10/25/10 Now I was underthe impression that a lease is a legally binding document And I believe the city should be held responsible legally to pay just as I would be My husband has always worked and we have always been on time with our $400.00 per monthe contribution but of course it would be very difficult for us to contribute more than this to our rent thus the blessing of having the advantage program NOw I don't now how Mayor Bloomberg who i have suppoitrd in the past thinks its ok to give people in our situtuiaon10 days notice that they are going to stop my rent assistance just like like iwth no other solution but for 15,000 famolies to become homeless again. Do thay not understan that it cost WAY MORE $$$$$$ to keep us in a shelter then to pay my rent as ammter of fact it costs $2000 more to shelter us per month Are they crazy or just stupid Please some help us no to continue with this revoling door system Contact me at Lets stand up for ourselves Christine

Anonymous said...

I was in the shelter in 2009 and i got out four monts ago i thought this is my new life to better myself and my two boys. its sad to see how this is affecting every one thats trying to make a better life in my opion people who are not doing what there are suppose to be doing and making it bad for all should have action taking there are so many people who has section 8 and live in different country and rent out that apartment and collect rent for it. thats not right i mean what about hard working people like myself i make eight dollars and hour and i am trying to go back to school and get my life back on tract to be a role model for my kids so they dont have to go through this. i have a nice loandlord who understand but for how long is she going to understand when i cant afford the full rent and trust me with eight dollars and hour partime i dont know how thats going to work but i refuse to not fight for this program i need help bad i cant put my kids through this again not after all they have been through. god is good so i know he will help us pray to him and he does answer prayers. keep the faith were in this together god bless you all

Anonymous said...

how can they give you a program send you out there to better yourself and then leave you just like that. this is un heard of. are they keeping up with people after they leave the shelter to see if they are working and what they are doing i lets be real people we do have alot of lazy people who abuse the system and make it bad for hard working people who are trying and working their butts off. where are these people morals why should the good suffer for the bad if. it not fear for myself to suffer for people not doing the right thing being in the shelter is not a wonderful place to be treated like your in jail the wokers dont give one damm they think we are some low lifes. i just hope and pray that god hear our prayers because only he can help us. and i hope this is awake up call for people who are abusing the systems for no reason at all. god bless everyone am in the same boat but i refuse to give up. bless

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to everyone i feel your pain, i was in the shelter also i got my own apartment and i know live with my two kids golory be to god. i was making 15 dollars and hour i was in my job for 8 years and then one day they laid me off. i know work in kfc making nothing. i only had 2months left on my program but i was prayin that i would be recertified for another year and now am stuck i did not ask to be in situation but things do happen. i dont know what to do but i know i cant return to the shelter with my kids my loandlord is very nice but soon she will not be because i cant afford 962 on minimum wage. so i ask whats going to happen to me and my kids welfare wont even help me they said i work so what do u want me to do stop workingi mean there is no help everywhere u turn. i just hope someone is reading these blogs and try to help us out because if we do not get help soon i just know its not going to be pretty for many people like myself. i just hope someone hear my cries. god bless u all keep your head up what doesn't kill you only makes you stornger. god bless bless the program and whatever they come up with next be safe

Anonymous said...

I feel so bad for all the famlies who are going through this. My family is in a shelter and it is hard to see them not know what other moves to make. now that the plugg is pulled and the rent must be paid on the first what will people do. well i'm here to tell you LISTEN UP MAYOR BLOOMBERG.....
no jobs = no housing no housing = drug dealer/ strippers/robbers= higher crime rate= more imprisonment= kids without fathers= more minority kids without there moms or dads... Wake up America this picture is not right why are you doing this to our families.. look at you own families right now and how could you live with yourself if all that nice pretty expensive stuff u have in your house was taken from you in a split second.. Mayor bloomberg I hope this is not you doing this because as fast as we voted you in we can vote you out... remember WE ARE THE PEOPLE...

Ms.Arlene said...

This Message Is For Governor Cuomo: Did you stop to think about the many families,especially children that you are Driving right back into the Shelters?Because you decided to cut the Work Advantage Program.Isn't it more Advantageous to continue the Program than to force everyone back into the shelters.Doesn't it cost more to house a family in the Shelters? We are Human Beings just like you.If you cut one of us we do indeed Bleed.Where is your conscience? Where is your Heart?

Unknown said...
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