Mayor’s budget plan cuts $615 million from homeless services as subway crackdown escalates

Service providers have urged the city to hire more workers to help move people out of shelters or public spaces and into permanent housing more quickly.

Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office of Photography

On Friday, Mayor Eric Adams announced an additional subway app.

New York’s homeless services agency would see a fifth of its operating budget and 131 vacancies cut under Mayor Eric Adams’ $98 billion spending plan, even as an aggressive new effort to drive homeless New Yorkers out of the subway system is underway.

Adams’ first draft budget, released Wednesday, would cut Department of Homeless Services (DHS) spending by about $2.8 billion to $2.15 billion in 2023, primarily due to the loss of about $500 million in federal COVID-related funding allocated to the agency, budget documents Show.

DHS cut $109 million this fiscal year and next under the cost-cutting mandate of the Adams Program to Close the Gap (PEG). The bulk of the PEG savings came from the decision to end the use of commercial hotels for families with children, a goal the city met last year. DHS will also cut 131 positions it says were budgeted for but never assigned to a specific program area. In addition, the agency re-estimated the cost of adult shelters and shelter repairs to achieve additional savings, but said PEG cuts will not result in a loss of services.

Adams announced his budget proposal two days before the launch of the latest phase of a crackdown on New Yorkers staying on the transit system, with health and social services agencies working in conjunction with the NYPD and s committing to provide new support resources.

“No more doing what you want. Those days are over,” Adams said at a news conference on Friday. “The system was not made to be housing. It’s made to be a means of transportation.

Under its “subway safety plan,” police would step up enforcement of violations like sleeping in a subway car, and agencies would pursue mandatory outpatient treatment for people with mental illness. The plan would also add additional outreach teams, new reception centers and “increased availability” of nearly 500 SafeHaven and stabilization beds – accommodations for people staying in public spaces with fewer restrictions than mass shelters. – at some point this year. In brief remarks on Friday, Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins said the SafeHavens and stabilization spaces were “new beds” but did not provide details.

Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul, who also spoke at news conferences on Friday, did not discuss details about the costs of the new programs and facilities.

Their new initiative includes the goal of “simplifying the placement process” for supportive housing and “reducing the amount of paperwork needed to apply.” City officials said Friday they are still working out the details of reducing the administrative burden.

Service providers have urged the city to hire more workers at DHS and the Human Resources Administration, the two agencies that make up the Department of Human Services, to expedite moves out of shelters or public spaces and into housing. permanent. A recent survey by New York’s Supportive Housing Network found a 10% vacancy rate among its members, a problem the organization blamed on hiring freezes and lack of staff capacity. Supportive housing providers also frequently reject applicants with the greatest mental health needs, such as people staying in public spaces.

Homeless Services United executive director Catherine Trapani, whose organization represents service providers, said the streamlining of the process to access supportive housing is “very good news”.

“The current procedures are complicated and involve several different assessments which can be difficult to put together and obtain, but if we all agree that the clients need the accommodation, we should just give it to them,” Trapani said.

But job cuts and spending cuts at DHS could hamper efforts to speed up the housing process, advocates said. Budget documents show a proposed reduction in DHS staff from 2,374 this fiscal year to 1,993 workers in 2023.

“There is no doubt that this is an austere budget and we are pushing back on cuts to health and social services at all levels,” said HousingWorks CEO Charles King, whose organization runs shelters, supportive housing sites, and mental health services across the city.

The subway crackdown, which Adams and Hochul first launched on Jan. 6, has also come under heavy criticism for its focus on policing.

“Forcing people off trains in the freezing cold doesn’t help the homeless,” said Peter Malvan, an organizer with the Safety Net Project group. “The police are not allowing people to be safely housed.”

So far, Adams’ approach to homelessness has largely focused on the visible, but relatively small number of people left on the streets and subways, especially in the wake of murders – like a woman pushed past an incoming train and another woman hunted down and stabbed to death in her apartment – ​​allegedly by homeless men.

His presentation on the preliminary budget plan presented homelessness through the lens of gun violence and tent camps. Homeless New Yorkers and their advocates have urged him to commit to investing more in housing programs for families – who make up the majority of the city’s homeless population – and moving people out of shelters.

About 47,000 people, including more than 14,500 children, stay in homeless shelters in New York each night, with more than 60,000 New Yorkers in shelters at any given time in December 2021, according to the most recent data. recent tracked by City Limits.

“Families with children continue to make up the largest share of New York City’s homeless population, Mayor Adams did not mention how he plans to address the city’s family homelessness crisis or the shortage of affordable housing during its FY23 draft budget announcement,” Family Homelessness said. Coalition (a funder of City Limits) in a statement after the release of the budget.

The ultimate goal of the subway plan is to move homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing, Adams said. The city’s housing agencies would see a modest boost under his budget proposal, but still fall short of Adams’ campaign pledge to fund housing with $4 billion in the budget.

The Housing Preservation and Development Department (HPD) capital budget would mirror the total allocated by Adams’ predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, with $1.7 billion proposed for 2023, followed by $1. $5 billion in 2024 and $1.3 billion in 2025.

NYCHA’s budget would also maintain de Blasio’s proposed spending levels, with $587 million in 2023, $597 million in 2024 and $657 million in 2025.

New York Housing Conference executive director Rachel Fee, who stood with Adams last month when he announced the appointment of new housing agency heads, said her organization was “extremely disappointed” of Adams’ spending plan.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t act as mayor on a policy he called ‘smart’ as a candidate simply because of self-imposed budget constraints – and it’s vulnerable New Yorkers who are the ones who will suffer the consequences,” Fee said.

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