NYC Saves SRO Supportive Housing

05/20/2010 10:22 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg released New York City's FY 2011 Executive Budget. Despite painful cuts to various homeless service and mental health programs, the Mayor will continue to fund the City share of the New York/New York and SRO Support Services Programs.

For this he should be applauded.

While Albany has still yet to deal with the state's growing budget deficit, the Mayor is meeting the city's fiscal challenges head-on. By preserving core funding for supportive housing, he sends a clear signal that New York will invest smartly in long-term solutions with clear benefits that save taxpayer dollars.

  • Supportive housing ends homelessness while saving taxpayer money.. Supportive housing is just that--affordable housing tied to services the support wellness, stabilization and integration with community. Here in NY, a supportive housing evaluation found overall savings of $18,288 per unit of housing--virtually covering the entire cost of both the housing and services within the housing.

  • Supportive housing improves health and wellness and reduces public expenditures on crisis and emergency systems of care. Currently, large amounts of public funds are spent on a relatively few individuals: people trapped in a cycle of homelessness, mental illness, chronic health problems and incarceration who circulate through emergency rooms, prisons, shelters and mental institutions--without ever getting the help they need. Providing stable, supportive housing can break this cycle. It drastically decreases hospitalization, recidivism, and addiction and health problems. It reduces utilization of expensive emergency and crisis systems of care. Studies of supportive housing across the county show that participants are admitted to the hospital 45% less frequently and visit the emergency room 56% less often.

  • Supportive housing creates accessible jobs during an economic downturn. The SRO Support Services Program provides a shallow subsidy for essential front desk and support services for formerly homeless single adults living in permanent supportive housing in New York City. Without full funding, as many as 800 low wage workers, many of whom are formerly homeless, will lose their jobs; 38 new buildings will not be able to house chronically homeless, disabled people; and approximately 53 existing residences with 1,485 units could destabilize without services and possibly close. If just 255 tenants returned to homelessness, any savings from this cut would be wiped out by the increased costs of shelter and other expensive crisis services.

  • Supportive housing is compassionate public policy that rebuilds lives. In August 2005, the Governor and Mayor of New York expanded the benefits of supportive housing to high need families, persons with addiction issues, and youth aging out of foster care by signing the NY/NY III Agreement. Since that time hundreds of formerly homeless men, woman and children are living in safe, decent affordable housing that helps them address issues related to homelessness, poverty, trauma and abuse while they pursue new-found education, employment, recovery and family reunification goals.

These are difficult budgetary times and we don't agree with some of the cuts made in the city's budget. Mayor Bloomberg has confronted the growing numbers of New Yorkers forced to seek shelter from the storms of economic crisis, homelessness and chronic health challenges by honoring standing commitments to invest in supportive housing--a policy and program innovation proven to save money and achieve positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

The State is on the flip side of every SRO Support Services and NY/NY III program funding dollar and must follow suit. The Governor and State legislature bear the same responsibility for downsizing shelters. As importantly, they share the cost burden homelessness exerts on expensive publicly funded systems of care. Any cuts to supportive housing will just increase other state costs. So when the State executive and legislators finally get serious about negotiating a budget, they need to leave every penny of their existing commitments for SRO Support Services, New York/New York III and Supportive Housing for Families and Young Adults programs on the table.