New York's Homeless Left Behind in Governor's Budget

03/28/2011 12:48 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2011

You see a good deal of hardship being a homeless services provider, but the look of joy you see when a client walks into their own apartment for the first time after living in shelter is unparalleled. The Advantage rental subsidy program gives clients independence and a home of their own. Today, Governor Cuomo's promised elimination of the Advantage program threatens the homes of 15,000 households established in the community and invalidates thousands of those who currently hold vouchers.

Without Advantage as an option to move out of shelter, families will stay in shelter for longer periods of time. The City projects that the number of families with children will increase by half to over 13,000 by next summer. As President and CEO of Women In Need, a NYC non-profit, I can tell you that having more families in shelter is never something that we strive for, we want to see our families back on their own, succeeding as contributing neighbors and part of their communities. So the reality that eliminating Advantage will mean building 70 new shelters throughout New York City for this new population is overwhelming.

Many of the 15,000 families who will have their rental subsidy discontinued by this budget cut are just starting to get re-established in the community and may be at risk of eviction. The reality is that moving families into permanent housing is less expensive than housing them in shelters. It is also far better for the families, giving them a permanent place to live and the opportunity for independence and self-sufficiency. Last year, Women In Need moved over 700 families into their own apartments and over 70 percent of them were housed because of the Advantage program. Without the state subsidy for this program, rental housing would be totally out of reach for our families.

The Governor and his colleagues in Albany are not only hurting Advantage clients by eliminating the subsidy. Ending Advantage will cost taxpayers $80 million more in shelter and related programs. To fund these new costs, cuts will have to be made to other programs serving low-income New Yorkers. So, in sum, even more people will lose.

Advantage truly is just that: a homeless family's advantage to start their independent life after shelter. We cannot take away this important assistance for working families and individuals. The advantage program is not perfect but it adds significant locally financed affordable housing for our families. For those who are willing to contribute and gainfully find a job and pay a portion of their income as they find their footing, we must partner with them as they fully get their feet under them again. It is imperative that the Governor reverse this cut or the legislature restore the funding. For 28 years, the City has maintained an incredible record of housing every single homeless person who needed help. Never before has the effort been placed at such risk.