$ 89 million of tax money is spent to send individuals and families to other states.
Bill de Blasio promised to end the inequality that split the city between poor and rich.
For this, it was a priority to combat the crisis facing the largest metropolis in the United States due to the increase in homelessness.
Almost six years later, the Democrat is criticized by other mayors for a program that allowed him to export thousands of homeless families to other locations across the country.
The controversial unique special assistance program (SOTA) is part of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).
According to the information revealed by the local press, the city allocated 89 million dollars to cover transportation, one-year rental and furniture for 12,482 people who moved out of the city. That amounts to about 5,070 families since the special single assistance program was activated in August 2017.
The city deployed them to more than 370 locations in 32 states, including remote territories such as Puerto Rico or Hawaii.
New York authorities never informed the receiving localities about the financial status of the new residents they welcomed.
Relocation is also done without the beneficiary having to demonstrate a link with the destination community.
Newark, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, identified 1,200 families that are part of this program. Now the city is about to adopt a municipal order to prohibit New York from sending homeless people through SOTA.
Mount Vermont Mayor André Wallace, in Westchester County, also requires Bill de Blasio to take care of the people he wants to send elsewhere.
The Homeless Coalition amounts to 63,840 homeless people in New York City. The count is made every January. Figures from the organization indicate that the trend did not stop growing with Bill de Blasio.
In the case of adult men, the movement of people doubled in number during the last 10 years, to exceed 18,000 individuals. The number of families went from 9,600 to 15,000 in that period.
Questions about the legality
Some of the people transferred arrived in Honolulu, almost 5,000 kilometers from New York. Democrat John Mizuno, who chairs the Hawaiian Senate Public Health Committee, wrote to the US attorney general to review the legality of the policy followed by New York.
He believes that the program “does not guarantee the security, welfare and support they need” for these displaced persons. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” he predicts. Hawaii has a similar program.
Irvington authorities in New Jersey regret the lack of coordination and supervision. Tony Vauss, his mayor, insists that the homeless are “vulnerable citizens” in need of permanent attention.
When the aid disappears, it is the recipients who must take over. Like the mayor of Torrington, in Connecticut, she heard about the New York program through the press.
The seriousness of the crisis, they point out from the coalition, “is not a surprise.” You can see it happening in front of the shelter for men that Basic Housing manages in the Upper West Side neighborhood. It is a hotbed for people entering and leaving the complex.
A few years ago, it offered apartments to tourists. Then, it joined the system to respond to the increase in the population of homeless people.
The experts of the Manhattan Institute point out that this program reflects the “desperation” to try to reduce the census of homeless, and although moving them to other locations where housing has a more affordable price can be helpful, the Homeless Coalition warns that it is not a realistic option for people who cannot be self-sufficient when the subsidy expires.
The excuse is saving public funds
“It is unfair that the largest city in the United States addresses the problem by sending them to other communities without notifying them,” laments Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
This town in the suburbs of New York received more than 130 families, although they never had an official notification. The solution, the mayors agree, is not to send these people to other cities.
DHS denies “exporting” these families and insists that the program is designed to help them find a home so they can start a new life.
To justify it, he explains that welcoming them in shelters run by the city costs up to 70,000 dollars for a family with children, while paying them a rent in another city is around 17,500 dollars.
The taxpayer’s saving argument is questionable and not only because the cost is transferred to other cities.
35% of the beneficiaries of this assistance program moved within the boundaries of the metropolitan area, where rents are higher and many, in addition, end up returning to the shelters in New York a few months after the poor housing conditions.
The New York State Senate is investigating the assistance program following numerous protests by mayors. The same is being done by the City Council itself, after detecting “severe vulnerabilities” in its execution and the responsibilities assumed by the owners of the foster homes.