New York City just posted a new record high for homelessness, but Governor David Paterson is looking to set his own record. He's proposed the largest cut ever to homeless services by any governor in New York history.
A staggering 39,200 people will bed down tonight in NYC's emergency shelter system - that includes a record 10,000 homeless families. Against this backdrop, Governor Paterson's budget proposes to slash $104 million from adult shelters, prevention services and permanent housing. These cuts are exactly the wrong move at the wrong time and will plunge New York deeper into crisis by increasing homelessness and quite possibly forcing thousands out of the shelters and into the streets.
Paterson is asking New York City's municipal shelters for homeless adults to take the largest hit: $88 million - 100% of New York State's funding for running the city's adult shelter system. The Governor proposes to make up the gap by charging homeless adults rent for shelter. Under his proposal, homeless adults will be asked to cough up $36 million from their disability checks or their meager paychecks. Forget for a moment that there is no way New York's adult shelter population is sitting on $36 million. The bigger problem is that forcing homeless adults to pay for shelter would make it much harder for them to save to get out up and out of shelter. The result? Longer shelter stays and a higher price tag underwritten by the taxpayers.
The remaining shortfall would be covered by welfare payments from homeless single adults - despite the fact that only 24 percent of homeless single adults in NYC have active welfare cases, according to the NYC Office of Management and Budget. Longstanding bureaucratic barriers prevent most homeless single adults - who have high rates of mental and physical health problems - from securing welfare benefits make a dramatic increase in enrollment unrealistic.
If the City is unable to make up the deficit, it will be forced to choose between considerably increasing local spending on shelter - at a time of a major city budget crisis - or eliminating services and closing shelters at a time of rising homelessness, putting thousands of homeless adults out onto the streets.
Our emergency shelters are already operating at maximum capacity; the system has been stretched to the point where we have repeatedly run out of beds for homeless men and women this year. And the past several months have seen more New Yorkers become homeless and turn to a safety-net shelter.
There could not be a worse time for New York State to step back from its commitment to sheltering homeless people. Paterson must put aside his current political and personal troubles and focus on the crisis facing over 39,000 of our neighbors - including 16,500 homeless children. Unless he changes course quickly, David Paterson risks going down in history as the worst governor for the homeless in New York history.
Please join us in urging Governor Paterson to abandon his budget proposal to cut more than $100 million from homeless services. Send your letter to the governor today by clicking here.