NY homeless shelters charging rent

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Mar 21, 2006
Las Vegas NV
New York, NY (AHN) - Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters but receive income from jobs.

The new policy is based on a 1997 state law that was not enforced until last week when shelter operators started requiring shelter residents to pay a portion of their income based on factors including family size and the shelter being used, without exceeding 50 percent of a family's income.

City officials said the new rent requirement is in line with the federal Section 8 housing voucher program and has been in development since a 2007 state audit forced them to pay back $2.4 million in state housing aid that should have been covered by homeless families with income.

While it is unclear exactly why the state law was not forced until now, New York City does have an above-average rate of working homeless families than anywhere in the state, as well as higher living costs than almost anywhere else in the country.
Not uncommon at all. The County homeless shelter does that in Berks. It's only $60/week for an individual. The outsourced one in Norristown makes homeless working people sequester 1/3 of their paycheck in accounts that provide securities and first month's rent. They limit them to (iirc) 120 days

what happens if you don't charge working homeless is that they just continue to be homeless, even if they have the means to pay for housing.

When I told one of the volunteers about the homeless shelter being used by some as cheap housing, he commented, "Yeah, they get to bank all that money". I said, "No, they get to buy more alcohol or a better cell phone ..or any number of things instead of housing".

About 1/3 of the people I see as homeless are bona fide unfortunates that need a few connections made for them to be straightened out into income earning functional individuals. About 1/3 are just there for goods and services so they can drink and crack around and have a place to sleep and get a meal. One subset of this group are those who manage to get thrown in jail for either not paying their fines or getting busted for a drug posession. The other 1/3 may be mentally ill (AND have drug and alcohol issues). We manage to retire about 6 a year out of the 25 nightly guests.
Gary, do you work at one of the two shelters you cited?

I can see some situations where one is too poor to live, and too poor to die, and I find most "crazy people" regrettable, since they cannot get the help that they need or "deserve". However, there are too many freeloaders of various levels - cost should be incurred to live there, and if there is no work, but people are of sound mind, they should be put to work. Why not?

I think we need to impose the realities of work and making an effort that were in place 1000 years ago, just combined with some of the better aspects of modern technology and social structure.
I don't work at either, but we're in close association with the Norristown homeless outreach center. The director is on our board. We often have a kinetic action going on. Phila shelters maybe full ..they bump them to Norristown ..which is full ..and they call us to see if we have room. We typically do.

The mentally ill often have very loose connections with their services. They run out of meds and their case workers often can't find them. They forget their appointments. Their appointments may be in Norristown (the county seat) and they may be homeless in Pottstown (17 miles). It's a real mess ironing out the bugs for them. The term "herding cats" has been thrown around a bit. It's not only the mentally ill that this applies to. It's also the chaos of the service providers.

There are also just chronic dysfunctionals. They aren't necessarily mentally ill (per se~) but are surely character or personality disorders of some magnitude. They're never going to hold a full time or regular part time job. They may be alcoholic or drug addicts in addition to their other personal problems.

Most of these types of homeless became public property due to demographics and deindustrialization. Their parents are either too old or dead, and they don't have a functional family to support them. That is, their relatives are also bailing water or have some level of dysfunction that makes the added burden of the black sheep of the family intolerable. They may also have burned those bridges. A few had decent jobs at one time, but found it difficult adapting when the factories went away. Some are veterans.

The cops are actually glad that we do this. They aren't really prepared to handle it when the person isn't otherwise committing a crime (found sleeping at a bus stop or something like that).

There's much more to tell....

We don't get any regular funding. We got a grant our first year and cash donations last year. This year the hosting churches (we stay 30 days at each church 10pm-8am) provided all the food and the congregation members did most of the cooking. They also sustained the added water and energy bills associated with the ministry. There's always rough edges and challenges that somehow work out.
If they can afford to pay at least some, I don't see a problem charging them, or convince them to move to section 8 or other less expensive program, so the space can benefit others.
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