The New York City LGBT Community Center is among the latest advocates to endorse a plan by Queens State Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi that would provide a rent subsidy for households on public assistance that are at risk for eviction.
“It’s no secret that LGBT people face shocking health disparities and much higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness, and we see this first-hand every day at the Center,” said Glennda Testone, the West 13th Street institution’s executive director. “Home Stability Support [HSS] will help us and others in the LGBT movement offer our most vulnerable community members a way to secure safe, affordable housing and get on more stable footing to address other basic needs, like employment.”
Noting that there are currently 60,000 New Yorkers in homeless shelters every night, Hevesi, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Social Services, estimated that as many as “80,000 households are on the brink of homelessness” across the state.
According to figures provided by both Hevesi and the Coalition for the Homeless, New York City spends more than $38,000 a year to house a family of three –– increasingly in hotels that are filling the gap given the insufficiency of the shelter system. The cost of keeping the same family in their home, the assemblymember and the advocates say would be just over $11,000.
Hevesi pegs the cost of the HSS program at $450 million statewide, but yielding considerably greater savings. The coalition has said the proposal could prevent about 5,000 evictions citywide each year, and factoring in costs related to housing court, law enforcement, and providing shelter space to runaway youth, it estimated the city could save about $250 million a year in that way alone.
LGBTQ youth are at particular risk for homelessness, with estimates in New York and elsewhere suggesting that 40 percent or more of all young people living on the streets identify as queer. Counting the homeless population is difficult, but estimates in New York City have ranged from 8,000 (a figure former City Council Youth Services chair Lew Fidler told Gay City News) to 20,000 (based on a survey by the Coalition for Homeless Youth) in recent years. LGBTQ youth advocates and service providers, along with the city, have made strides over the past decade in providing safe housing for this population, but the need remains great and providing these young people with stability once they find housing is a key policy priority.
In line with that priority, two leading service providers to LGBTQ youth –– the Ali Forney Center and The Door –– have also endorsed Hevesi’s measure.
The measure also has broad support from other quarters. In the Assembly, Hevesi has 110 endorsers of the legislation, currently being drafted, more than enough to secure passage. Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein, whose breakaway Independent Democratic Conference shares power in the Senate with the Republicans, has also endorsed the measure and is expected to introduce the legislation in his chamber. Whether he can convince his GOP partners to allow a floor vote –– which could well mean passage since there are actually 32 Democrats in the 63-member Senate –– remains to be seen.
At this point, Hevesi is pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo to incorporate the program into his budget that must be approved by April 1.
The Queens Democrat also also lined up endorsements from more than 30 members of the City Council, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Congressmember Joe Crowley, the powerful leader of the Queens Democratic organization.