City awards $369M contract for homeless services in hotels

(CRAINS) , February 16, 2018 — The de Blasio administration awarded a $369 million contract Friday to a Queens-based organization that will provide supplies and social services to homeless families living in hotels, according to a post in the City Record.

The contract was awarded by the Department of Homeless Services to Childrens Community Services Inc., which listed an address on Long Island near the border of Queens but whose website says it is based on 175th Street in Jamaica. The contract will run for three years, according to the notice.

The city’s homeless population has continued to swell as Mayor Bill de Blasio begins his second term. A recent federal survey pegged the number at around 76,000, more than any other metropolitan area in the country (although Los Angeles has more people living on the streets). And with not enough shelter beds or supportive housing, the de Blasio administration has increasingly turned to the controversial and expensive practice of housing families in commercial hotels. The contract awarded Friday would provide services to families with children who are living in these hotels.


L.A.’s homelessness surged 75% in six years. Here’s why the crisis has been decades in the making

(LOS ANGELES TIMES) February 13, 2018 — Some of the poorest people in the city spend their days in the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall, napping on flattened cardboard boxes.

On any given day, as many as 20 people take to the City Hall lawn, across the street from LAPD headquarters. They’re there to “escape the madness” in downtown streets, a 53-year-old homeless man named Lazarus said last week. At night, they fan out to doorways or deserted plazas to wait for daybreak.

The growth of a homeless day camp at the halls of civic power speaks to the breadth of Los Angeles’ burgeoning homelessness problem.

The number of those living in the streets and shelters of the city of L.A. and most of the county surged 75% — to roughly 55,000 from about 32,000 — in the last six years. (Including Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, which conduct their own homeless counts, the total is nearly 58,000.)



The Search For Jackie Wallace

(NOLA.COM / THE TIMES PICAYUNE) Ted Jackson, February 13, 2018 — One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.

He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought.


In Six Years the Number of Homeless Children in New York City Public Schools Jumped Nearly 50 Percent

(MOTHER JONES) Maha Ahmed, January 20, 2017 — Almost 100,000 students in New York City’s public schools were homeless during the 2015-16 school year,according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness (ICPH). This number represents a 20 percent increase from the previous school year, and a 49 percent increase in student homelessness since the 2010-11 school year. If this trend doesn’t change, more than 1 out of 7 of New York City’s public school students will experience homelessness by the time they enter the fifth grade.

Beyond outlining these and other big-picture statistics, the report, released just a few weeks before the city’s schools are back in session on September 7, focuses on the cohort of students that were enrolled in NYC public schools for all six years of elementary school, ending in the 2015–16 school year. Over those six years, researchers explored the effects of housing instability on a student’s experience in the classroom and found that the average homeless student lived in at least two different housing situations during elementary school, often leading them to transfer schools in the middle of the year. As a result of longer commute times or instability at home, these students tended to miss more school than students with stable housing (missing almost half of a school year on average) and were at higher risk of suspension or being held back a grade.

Source: Mother Jones

Bussed out: how America moves thousands of homeless people around the country

(GUARDIAN) Outside in America, January 4, 2017 — How America moves its homeless. Each year, US cities give thousands of homeless people one-way bus tickets out of town. An 18-month nationwide investigation by the Guardian reveals, for the first time, what really happens at journey’s end.

Quinn Raber arrived at a San Francisco bus station lugging a canvas bag containing all of his belongings: jeans, socks, underwear, pajamas. It was 1pm on a typically overcast day in August.

An unassuming 27-year-old, Raber seemed worn down: his skin was sun-reddened, he was unshaven, and a hat was pulled over his ruffled blond hair. After showing the driver a one-way ticket purchased for him by the city of San Francisco, he climbed the steps of the Greyhound bus.


City Plans to Use Swanky Midtown Hotel As Homeless Shelter

(NY1)  Michael Scotto, December 16, 2017 — Mayor de Blasio is pledging to open 90 new shelters across the city over five years. NY1 Has learned that one of them will be in a stately Manhattan building that until now has been a luxury hotel. Our Michael Scotto has the exclusive details.

The Hotel Chandler on East 31st Street is just a short walk from the Empire State Building.

The 148-room boutique hotel boasts “an air of stately elegance,” at a cost of more than $400 a night.

But next month, the hotel will close. And after some quick renovations, the 112-year-old building will reopen in January as a homeless shelter for 170 adult families, the first in Manhattan under Mayor de Blasio’s plan to open 90 across the city over five years.

The community was told about the plan late last month.

“Surprise, first of all, because the announcement came unexpected,” said president of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association Mario Messina.

The de Blasio administration says the shelter is needed so it can phase out controversial private apartments, called cluster sites, and expensive commercial hotels, which have drawn the criticism of the City Comptroller for their high cost and lack of services. Some rooms cost more than $500 a night.


Panhandlers and the law | Manhattan, New York, NY | Local News

(STRAUS MEDIA) Bernard Dworkin, October 14, 2017 — If you regularly pass Dunkin’ Donuts at First Avenue and 56th Street, you will have seen Vincent, 60 years old, British West Indies-born, leaning against the wall or phone booth and reading his latest history or fiction novel, while occasionally glancing up to check you out. He says nothing, but regulars in the area know he is panhandling. Vincent is disabled as a result of spinal surgery in 2014 and he survives on Social Security disability — about $736 a month and the kindness of others, all of whom add perhaps $50 a day to his income.

Vincent proudly says he does not drink, smoke or do drugs and would be working if not for his disability. In fact, he has completed several courses in computer technology, but his surgery adversely affected his ability to use his hands. He hopes when he completes his physical therapy, probably in September, he will improve enough to get off the street and into a job.

A resident of Queens who lives alone, Vincent convinced his landlord to reduce his rent to $650 a month. He has two daughters and has never been married. In the old days he worked on an off-shore rig. He is an avid reader and his book is not merely a tax-deductible occupational device to create an impression. We noticed a small refrigerator on a dolly near where Vincent was doing his thing and asked him if he really brought a portable appliance with him to keep his food cold. With a smile, he assured us it was not his refrigerator. Vincent has had no problems with the law.

Ray, on the other hand, another panhandler who occupies the same corner when Vincent is not there, has been arrested four times but never convicted. Ray is considerably more verbally aggressive than Vincent, which no doubt may account for his arrests. “Help a guy out!” Ray will shout as you pass. He said the cops exaggerated his aggressiveness at the time of his arrests.

Source: Panhandlers and the law | Manhattan, New York, NY | Local News

City Opens ‘Surprise Shelter’ in Williamsburg Hotel, Angering Neighbors

(DNAINFO)  Gwynn Hogan | October 5, 2017 — A “surprise shelter” opened over the summer in a former Union Avenue hotel without notification to the community, an indication that the city has quietly backpedaled on a pledge to warn neighbors at least seven days in an advance before moving in homeless people.

All 54 rooms at The Metropolitan at 437 Union Ave. are being rented out by the Department of Homeless Services, the agency confirmed, and will be used by the department for a minimum of two years, according to Jen Gutierrez, the chief of staff at Local Councilman’s Antonio Reynoso’s Office, who got wind of the shelter had opened from concerned constituents.

“There was no heads-up,” said Gutierrez. “They didn’t speak to Antonio directly.”

DHS, which moved homeless residents into The Metropolitan in July, also didn’t warn the local community board, Gutierrez said. The agency left a message with a part-time staffer in Reynoso’s office on July 20, though the word “shelter” wasn’t mentioned, she said.

Reynoso and his top staff members are in constant communication with DHS about other shelters in the district, so the fact that they wouldn’t mention the new shelter to any of them directly further frustrated the councilman, Gutierrez said.

DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn refuted Gutierrez’ claims by mentioning the July 20 call to Reynoso’s part-time staffer.

When asked how long DHS planned to use The Metropolitan for homeless New Yorkers, McGinn declined to give a date, citing the mayor’s plan to build 90 new shelters and stop using commercial hotels to house homeless New Yorkers by 2023.

If the city is able to phase out its use of the Metropolitan or any other hotel before that, it will, McGinn added.

Source: City Opens ‘Surprise Shelter’ in Williamsburg Hotel, Angering Neighbors – Williamsburg – New York – DNAinfo

Homeless Placed in New Hotel Sites Despite City’s Pledge to Phase Them Out

(DNAINFO)  Ben Fractenberg | October 9, 2017 — The city is still using commercial hotels to house homeless New Yorkers, despite a pledge last year to phase them out following a fatal stabbing at a homeless hotel.

The de Blasio administration has said its first priority is to end the use of “cluster housing” as it also opens new stand-alone shelters across the city.

In recent weeks, homeless shelters have popped up at hotels in Williamsburg, Sunnyside and Kew Gardens, to the dismay of some neighbors and elected officials who say they were given little warning about the plans. The Department of Homeless Services says the sites are necessary to shelter residents and families who would otherwise have nowhere to go.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to phase out the use of hotel shelters by 2023, the city is  focused first on eliminating its use of “cluster sites” — apartments located in private buildings that the city rents as shelter space — while also opening 90 new homeless shelters citywide in the coming years.

“While we are phasing out cluster units as first priority and increasing high-quality borough-based shelter capacity citywide, we are using commercial hotels…as a bridge to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers, including families with children, who would otherwise be turned out into the street,” DHS Spokesman Isaac McGinn told DNAinfo New York last week.

Source: Homeless Placed in New Hotel Sites Despite City’s Pledge to Phase Them Out – Midtown – New York – DNAinfo

Trump FY18 Budget Calls for Massive Cuts to Affordable Housing Programs

(NATIONAL LOW INCOME HOUSING COALITION) October 8, 2017 — A copy of President Trump’s 2018 budget for HUD was leaked on May 19. The leaked budget would slash funding for affordable housing programs that millions of low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and low wage workers depend on. In a press statement, NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel called the budget proposal “unconscionable and unacceptable.”

NLIHC is not sure about the finality of the leaked budget, as the official budget is scheduled to be released tomorrow, May 23, but the budget aligns with Mr. Trump’s “skinny budget” released in March. Office of Management of Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney will testify on the White House’s budget request before the House Budget Committee on May 24 at 9:30 am ET and before the Senate Budget Committee on May 25 at 9:45 am ET.

Mr. Trump’s budget would harm thousands of the lowest income families by taking away their housing assistance – leading to higher levels of homelessness and housing poverty – to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and billions of dollars in increased defense spending. The proposed budget contradicts HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s assurances that “nobody’s going to be thrown out on the street,” as he defended the proposal.

The administration would slash federal investments in affordable housing at HUD by nearly 17%, or $7.7 billion, compared to FY17.  The proposed cuts could mean more than 250,000 people could lose their housing vouchers. It would also impose punitive measures that would jeopardize family stability – increasing the financial burdens they face through higher rents and ending support to help cover the cost of basic utilities, like water and heat.

Mr. Trump’s budget calls for eliminating the national Housing Trust Fund, the first new housing resource in a generation and one that is exclusively targeted to help build and preserve housing affordable to people with the lowest incomes, including those experiencing homelessness. The budget devastates resources needed to operate and maintain public housing that provides homes to millions of families and represents billions of dollars in critical local assets. It would starve states and communities – including Native American communities that suffer from the worst housing conditions in America – of the flexible, locally-driven resources used to address their most pressing housing and community development needs. It cuts funding needed to keep low-income seniors, people with disabilities, people living with AIDS, and vulnerable individuals in safe, affordable homes, reduces funding to address serious health risks posed by lead-based paint, and even cuts resources used to address homelessness.

Source: Trump FY18 Budget Calls for Massive Cuts to Affordable Housing Programs: National Low Income Housing Coalition