A City of Economic Disadvantage

In 2004, while preparing to run for his first re-election, Mayor Bloomberg promised to reduce the number of homeless people in the city by 2009. Three years later, with a depressed job market, the number of homeless New Yorkers has increased, reaching the unprecedented number of 41,000, 17,000 of who are children.

While the city is desperate for programs to help turn around this awful trend, the only thing coming from the Mayor’s office are bad proposals.

The Mayor’s fight to eliminate the Advantage Program-which provides temporary rent subsidy to working families transitioning from shelters -shows inconsistencies in this administration’s anti-poverty efforts. Last year, Bloomberg announced a program to stabilize the living conditions for poor African-American and Latino youths.

Without the help of the Advantage Program, between 8,000 and 9,000 families-a large majority of them African-American and Hispanic-will lose the subsidy that helps them regain economic independence. Many will have to return to crowded shelters.

Bloomberg recently cancelled the program he created himself after a court lifted a judicial order that had prevented him from doing so since last March. The justification is that without state aid, which was cut two years ago, the city simply doesn’t have enough funds to pay for the program. However, paying for a shelter is more expensive than covering rental subsidies. The Legal Aid Society is appealing this decision.

This is the first time in recent memory that New York City won’t have a subsidy program for people who were formerly homeless. To make things worse, last year, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) stopped accepting applications from Section 8 federal housing program participants.

The Mayor must reverse this misguided decision or immediately announce an emergency plan to reduce the number of homeless and help those getting out of shelters. A starting point could be reviewing the proposals City Council Speaker Christine Quinn made yesterday. She called for NYCHA to once again accept Section 8 vouchers and give priority to the homeless, and proposed the creation of a city program similar to Section 8.