Homeless people who refuse to stay in a city shelter would still be able to qualify for rental assistance vouchers and score their own permanent housing under new legislation being considered by the City Council.
Council man Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), who expects to introduce the bill Thursday, told the media it will allow people living in the subways or on the street to bypass having to stay in a city shelter for 90 days before qualifying for rental assistance vouchers through a program administered by the Department of Homeless Services.
If someone is unwilling to go a shelter because they don’t feel safe, they should be able to bypass the shelter system rather than having to be on the street for five years, said Levin, who chairs the general welfare committee.
If they don’t feel comfortable going to crime-plagued Bedford-Atlantic Armory in Brooklyn or the 30th Street Shelter in Manhattan, they should still be able to get case-management services through the city and a voucher.
Levin’s committee is holding an oversight hearing Friday on this measure and another bill he’s also introducing aimed at streamlining case-management services for persons who are street homeless such as helping them get medical care quicker. DHS officials are expected to testify.
Vouchers currently cover $1,265 a month for single adults and $1,580 for a family of four still well below the cost to pay for market rate apartments in the city.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson has called for the city to increase the reimbursement rates for its apartment vouchers to cover market-rate rents which would cost an estimated $236 million over five years as part of his larger vision to tackle the city’s homeless crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s futile fight to end street homelessness has included New Yorkers down on their luck famously setting up a shantytown under Times Square scaffolding.
The city estimates 3,600 people sleep outdoors at night across the five boroughs — half of whom are chronically homeless, while the rest are transient.
As of Monday, 58,676 people called New York City’s embattled shelter system home.
A de Blasio spokesperson said the mayor would review the legislation, adding that under de Blasio’s watch the city has helped get more than 2,450 New Yorkers off the street and into transitional or permanent housing.