Activists urge governor, mayor to fight NYC homeless crisis

A coalition of activist groups rallied at City Hall Tuesday to outline a list of nine proposals they say the city and state can act on to curb New York’s growing homeless crisis.

Homes for Every New Yorker, which includes non-profits like the Metropolitan Council on Housing and the Coalition for the Homeless, released a report that provided Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio with a set of recommendations to help the city’s less fortunate in the next five years.

There are about 60,000 homeless New Yorkers, including 25,000 children, and that is nearly double the amount in December 2001, according to the city’s Department of Homeless Services’s NYCStat shelter.

“We need the mayor to do more, and the governor needs to step up,” said Patrick Markee, the deputy executive director for advocacy at the Coalition for the Homeless.

The recommendations include setting aside 10% of city assisted housing developments for affordable housing, which would create or preserve 1,000 units a year for homeless families. Another suggestion seeks to devote more NYCHA units to people in the shelter system, which would allocate 2,500 units.

The nonprofits also recommended Cuomo and de Blasio renew the “New York/New York” agreement, which was introduced in 1990, that would create 30,000 units of permanent housing over 10 years.

The coalition said many homeless New Yorkers have jobs but because of the high costs of housing they can’t afford any space for their families. Markee said recommendations like a higher minimum wage and improved city and state rental assistance programs would empower those residents.

“If they were earning a $15 an hour minimum wage, many would escape homelessness,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office noted that the administration has made fighting homelessness a priority and created new programs to curb the problem such as the Living in Communities rental assistance program for families who have been in the shelter the longest.

“It will require the collaborative efforts of the city, state and federal government, along with our community-based partners, to ensure every family has an affordable, safe and decent home,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said Cuomo “has made a deep, long-term, and unprecedented commitment to housing affordability in New York” as well as raising the minimum wage. He added the governor has proposed spending $1 billion to produce or preserve over 14,000 units of affordable housing over the next 5 years.