Hevesi Secures Funding Increase for Social Services Programs and Creates New Homeless Prevention Pilot Program

Queens, NY – Assemblymember Hevesi has announced that numerous programs operated by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) will receive increases in funding in the FY2015-2016 New York State enacted budget. The final budget also included a ‘Homelessness Prevention’ Pilot Program, as first proposed by Hevesi this legislative session, that will assist thousands of New Yorkers to remain in their homes.

Homelessness Prevention Pilot Program

The ‘Homelessness Prevention’ pilot program, successfully championed by Hevesi, will allow localities the latitude to raise rent subsidies to the Fair Market Rent standard set by HUD. The program, which in its first year will serve New York City, will assist those in the process of losing their housing for compelling reasons including domestic violence and other circumstances.

The pilot program request was first initiated by a letter from Hevesi to the Speaker of the Assembly in February, and was signed by nearly 40 of his Assembly colleagues. Hevesi, who was appointed Chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee just two weeks before the letter was sent, stressed the need for preventative service funding through the expansion of Family Eviction Prevention Subsidy (FEPS) eligibility in order to address the continued increase of individuals facing homelessness in New York State. Hevesi’s letter stated that the inclusion of such a pilot program will ultimately avert individuals from becoming homeless, and is a far more humane and cost effective practice than trying to rehouse people after they have been placed in shelter. The final FY2015-2016 enacted budget included $15 million for the prevention program.

On the inclusion of this program in the budget, Hevesi said “It was essential that the ‘Homelessness Prevention’ pilot program was included in the FY2015-2016 enacted budget. This program will immediately support our state’s most vulnerable population, and will ultimately save taxpayer money by preventing individuals from having to enter into the more costly shelter system.”

Shelly Nortz, Deputy Executive Director for Policy with the Coalition for the Homeless said, “The Coalition is so grateful to Chairman Hevesi for taking the lead on addressing homelessness in the State budget this year – this pilot program represents a breakthrough for families currently left out of our best homelessness prevention program. Along with other investments to help homeless people in crisis, and bolster our homeless service programs, this is the best budget we have had in many years. It is imperative that we now turn our attention to greatly expanding the supply of permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families so that we can reduce our reliance on costly emergency shelters.”

“This is a very important first step, and we commend the Assembly, the Speaker and Assemblymember Hevesi for securing this crucial funding,” said Kenneth Stephens, Supervising Attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “The Governor and Legislature still need to address the problem of the inadequate shelter allowance, which has not been raised in 10 years. Currently, the shelter allowance for a family of three is just $400, far short of the fair market rent of $1480. The pilot will also enable victims of domestic violence and other tenants to secure a modest supplement without having to wait to be sued in Housing Court, at which point they are already at the brink of homelessness.”

Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY)

Following their joint advocacy for increased funding for programs that provide support to runaway and homeless youth (RHY), Assemblymembers Hevesi and Rosenthal were able to secure an increase of over $2 million dollars in the FY 2015-16 New York State budget. As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Social Services, Hevesi included funding for runaway and homeless youth among his top budget priorities for this session, championing an increase in the conference and with leadership. Administered by OCFS, state funding for this particularly vulnerable population has significantly decreased since 2008.

Because of the dearth of funding and the lack of available beds, more and more young people are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. While state funding for trafficking victims has increased steadily over the last several years, funding for RHY programs has not kept pace, despite the clear connection.

The FY2015-2016 NYS enacted budget appropriated $4.5 million dollars to RHY, a $2.12 million increase from FY2014-2015 levels. This extra apportionment will serve RHY across New York State with housing, food, counseling, transportation, and support, in addition to numerous other services.

“Over the last half decade, our state has struggled to meet the needs of Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY),” Hevesi said. “Increasing RHY funding by over $2 million dollars in the FY2015-2016 NYS enacted budget sends a clear message that we stand with our most vulnerable population and will be on the vanguard of actively addressing this issue in New York State.”

“No child should be forced to sleep on the street,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “The increase in funding that the Governor and the Assembly included in this year’s budget recognizes the seriousness of the crisis facing our homeless youth and will help to create hundreds of beds across the State.”

Assemblymember Rosenthal was dogged in her advocacy to increase funding for runaway and homeless and was gratified that the body was able to deliver on this.

“The over 60 members of the Coalition for Homeless Youth is very grateful to Assemblymembers Hevesi and Rosenthal for championing homeless and runaway youth. This increase in funding will enhance and create beds and support services for homeless and runaway youth from the most rural to the most urban communities across New York State that have been struggling to sustain services since the national economic downturn,” said Jim Bolas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Homeless Youth.

NYS Supportive Housing Program (NYSSHP) & Solution to End Homelessness Program (STEHP) receive significant increases.

In addition to the significant increases in Runaway and Homeless Youth funding, Hevesi and his colleagues were also able to see that several programs such as the New York State Supportive Housing Program (NYSSHP) and the Solution to End Homelessness Program (STEHP) received an increase in funding.

Both STEHP & NYSSHP are operated by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. STEHP seeks to provide assistance to individuals and families to acquire permanent housing or remain in their current housing. The STEHP program receives funding from both the state and the federal government. NYSSHP provides supportive services to qualified residents of supported housing in order to help them be self-sufficient and avoid falling into homelessness. Both programs will receive a combined $2.5 million dollar increase from the previous year’s level.

“STEHP and NYSSHP provide crucial services to those on the verge of homelessness. Funding these programs at adequate levels is crucial to ensure that individuals have the resources they need to remain in their homes or obtain permanent housing,” Hevesi said.