The fight for supportive housing isn’t over yet

The fight for supportive housing isn’t over yet

The fight for supportive housing isn’t over yet
September 21, 2016

The prolonged release of the $2 billion Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his State of the State address to build supportive and affordable housing finally has an end in sight. Cuomo’s announcement last week that he has signed a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) to release all of the funds appropriated in the fiscal year 2017 state budget was a major step forward, but we are far from finished. The MOU, by definition, cannot be a one-way proposal – Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan have to all agree to release the earmarked funds. Until that happens, the money is stuck and we cannot celebrate this announcement as a victory – not with 80,000 homeless people living throughout our state.

Supportive housing is a proven, cost-effective model for ending homelessness among the most vulnerable individuals: Those with severe mental illnesses, addictions and other disabilities. It is permanent affordable housing paired with supportive services that saves taxpayers over $10,000 per household each year by greatly reducing the use of far more expensive interventions: Shelters, emergency rooms, hospitalizations and incarceration.

Beginning in July, the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing has protested outside Gov. Cuomo’s New York City office every Wednesday at 9 a.m., calling on him to make good on his promise to create 20,000 units of supportive housing by signing the MOU and funding the first 6,000 units statewide. We showed up week after week – faith  leaders, supportive housing providers, homeless and formerly homeless men and women, and many others – to make clear that homelessness for our most vulnerable neighbors will not be solved without this critical investment. Our presence has demonstrated that we will not give up until we are certain that New York’s leaders will fulfill the promise of homes for the most needy New Yorkers.

Gov. Cuomo will undoubtedly notice that we are not outside his office today: We wish to acknowledge that progress has been made. But make no mistake, this fight is not over. Last week’s announcement was a significant step forward in this critical conversation, but we will not rest until all three parties sign the agreement and the money is distributed.

Without a stable, affordable home, it is impossible for individuals and families to thrive. New York’s homeless individuals and families cannot wait any longer. We will be outside Gov. Cuomo’s office again next week, either to celebrate the execution of the MOU, or to continue to call upon all three state leaders to get the job done. This should not be a heavy lift. Gov. Cuomo has put forth his plan, and almost 75 percent of the members of the Legislature signed letters calling on him to execute this commitment to supportive housing.

All three leaders have the opportunity to make a difference for thousands of homeless New Yorkers by acting on this incredibly important issue now. Coming to an agreement on the MOU may not be easy – it will require compromise, creativity, and hard work. But this is the work New Yorkers elected our state leaders to do, and we want them to get it done now.

Steve Coe is CEO of Community Access. Marc Greenberg is the executive director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. Giselle Routhier is the policy director for Coalition for the Homeless. All three are steering committee members of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing.

Steve Coe
Marc Greenberg
Giselle Routhier
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