New York City’s future mayor will soon inherit a decades-long homelessness crisis that his former three predecessors have not adequately addressed and at times exacerbated. So what will Eric Adams do differently?
Three former homeless mothers have some ideas. They shared their experiences and advice during a forum Tuesday hosted by the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC) and Trinity Wall Street (City Limits funders). The event was moderated by City Limits Executive Editor Jeanmarie Evelly.
The first solution: Attach families who need housing to vacant housing.
Martha, a mother of two who asked City Limits to use only her first name, said she spent six years in shelters after leaving a violent partner, but she struggled to sign up and apply for apartments through the city’s Housing Connect portal , which shows apartments for rent and allows users to sign up for lotteries.
“I would say to the new mayor and councilors that they should think more about single mothers because I had to wait four years to find my apartment through Housing Connect and the problem was always how to sign up for the program, ” she said.
Kadisha Davis, another panelist and host of the FHC podcast Hear Our Voices, urged Adams and his administration to engage directly with homeless families to find out what they need to avoid shelter and find and maintain permanent housing.
“We shout it, but you’re not listening to us,” Davis said. “Bring a whole group of people who have experience and they can tell you what the problems are. All you have to do is listen. ”
It includes calls for the city to place families in shelters closer to their communities and elementary schools. She said she and her daughter spent hours commuting to and from a shelter near LaGuardia Airport to her daughter’s school – a process that left the student exhausted every day.
“The journey took a lot out of her,” she said. “Every day we have to get up at 5 in the morning and not get home until 8 or 9 [p.m.]. “
“I did not manage to spend that quality time with her,” Davis added. “But I made sure the weekends were filled with joy.”
Adams and his team want their work cut out for them when it comes to dealing with family homelessness – a population that makes up the majority of the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) shelter population.
More than 8,500 families with 14,861 children stayed in a DHS shelter on December 13, according to the city’s latest daily census. More and more people spent the night in transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence, run by the Human Resources Administration.
In recent years, the number of families staying in DHS shelters has fallen – the result, the agency says, of staffing efforts and preventive initiatives, such as a right to a housing lawyer and rental assistance vouchers. State-wide deferral protection has also kept low-income New Yorkers in their apartments since March 2020.
But families ending up in DHS shelters are now staying there for an average of nearly 18 months, according to the latest mayor’s management report. That’s three months longer than in 2017.
Most of these families are led by colored single mothers, the face of homelessness in New York City. It is nearing the end of pandemic-related eviction protections only threatening to boost yet another rise in homeless families.
FHC members call on the next administration to implement a range of policy recommendations, including the appointment of a deputy mayor to oversee housing and homelessness, appropriate staffing of agencies and programs serving homeless families, and strengthening initiatives such as the city’s One Shot Deal. which provides financial assistance to New Yorkers at risk of eviction.
Rhonda Jackson, another mother who spent time in the city’s shelters who attended the forum, said the impact of homelessness on children can last a lifetime.
“Going through shelter is really hard for the kids,” Jackson said. “As parents or adults, we can adapt a little more. But the children are suffering in silence. “
As the event ended Tuesday, Councilman Stephen Levin praised the three speakers for having the courage to share their experiences and ideas.
“Advocacy is absolutely crucial because it is the spark that makes politicians and elected officials aware,” said Levin, the outgoing chairman of the General Welfare Committee. “And it will always require a lot of perseverance.”
See the full forum discussion below.
City Limits ‘series on family homelessness in New York City is supported by Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York and The Family Homelessness Coalition. City Limits is solely responsible for the content and the editorial direction.