The Mayor’s Plan: Hope for the Homeless

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York, released on May 5, is a sweeping plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City over the next ten years. It also offers a comprehensive and bold approach to reducing homelessness that mirrors key elements of the extremely successful Jericho Model, which has enabled 95% of our graduates to maintain independent living.

“The Mayor’s historic plan provides housing opportunities for all New Yorkers, and we at Jericho Project are heartened that special emphasis is placed on the most vulnerable in our city, including homeless families, adults with special needs, and veterans,” said Tori Lyon, the Executive Director of Jericho Project.

“There is no single solution to ending homelessness,” she said. “Instead, the plan outlines crucial strategies that can help: the development of more supportive housing, effective use of rental subsidies, and resources to help people exit supportive housing when they no longer need it.”

Jericho Project applauds the Mayor’s intention to complete the third of its New York City and New York State funding agreements, which enable the creation of new supportive housing units. NY/NY III provided partial support for the construction of Jericho’s two Veterans Residences in the Bronx. To continue tackling the problem of homelessness, Jericho is part of an alliance that has recommended that the City and State create 30,000 new units of supportive housing over the next 10 years.

As Jericho and the city move forward, there are further ways in which Housing New York can help the 54,000 New Yorkers in shelters and thousands more at risk of homelessness:

End Veteran Homelessness. The City is committed to the national goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015 and has pledged to work with support programs like Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing and agencies including Jericho Project. Jericho serves some 500 veterans each year with supportive housing and comprehensive services.

The plan is seeking to eliminate bottlenecks and rapidly link veterans to housing – goals that Jericho is already achieving by fast-tracking veterans to supportive apartments and employment services.

“We will continue to share our practices in partnership with the VA and DHS veterans shelters, as well as the empowering services for jobs, mental health, and family reunification that are vital to ongoing success,” Lyon says.

Prioritize New York’s most vulnerable families – including those in shelters  for Section 8 vouchers. This is a key shift that pledges new rental subsidies and reopens access to the finite Section 8 vouchers to families that have been languishing in shelters. This will help some of the hardest-hit families who can fall back into homelessness due to illness or disability.

Expand Supportive Housing, the foundation for individuals and families to get the stability they need to rebuild their lives. The Mayor recognizes that “supportive housing is cost effective intervention that provides a permanent, affordable place to live combined with on-site services.”

Jericho delivers supportive housing and services for only $12,000 per year per individual, far less than the cost of shelters ($32,000 annually for an individual and $50,000 for a family), emergency rooms, or jails ($168,000).

The Crucial Step of “Moving On”: The plan calls for resources to help residents “moving in to programs more efficiently and “moving on” to independence more successfully.

The Mayor’s plan points out the crucial roles of rental assistance, aftercare services and a supply of affordable apartments to supporting this success. Jericho utilizes all three to reinforce our culture of “moving on” and for 31 years we have demonstrated that supportive housing tenants can successful do so. This part of the Mayor’s initiative could open up hundreds of units of supportive housing every year without any new construction.

Jericho Project believes that working in cooperation with the City, State, and other agencies, we can get homeless New Yorkers into housing and programs that will help them make a fresh start.

The executive summary of the mayor’s report is available here.