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Homeless New Yorkers demand shelter
improvements at City Council hearing
BY MORGAN C. MULLINGS
A panel of social services representatives
defended themselves against
advocates for homeless New Yorkers
at a City Council hearing on Dec. 6.
Several advocates for the homeless, and
a few who have experienced homelessness
themselves, detailed the harrowing shelter
experiences and gave their suggestions to
The Council questioned Molly Park, the
fi rst deputy commissioner of the Department
of Homeless Services, and found why the
number of single adults in homeless shelters
has increased and why conditions are still
not satisfactory to many who stay there.
City Councilmember Stephen Levin
(-Brooklyn), chair of the Committee on
General Welfare, noted that when the de
Blasio administration came to offi ce in
2013 there were roughly 11,500 single
adults in shelters. “That increased to a
high of 20,822 which would have been in
February of 2021,” he said.
Park responded that the increase in the
shelter population of single adults was
largely due decarceration of people in jails
and a lack of affordable housing stock.
“There’s a lot of positives to the trend towards
reducing incarceration, but it needs
to be done in a thoughtful way,” she said.
“It’s very diffi cult for a single person to
fi nd housing and when you compound that
with the need to fi nd affordable housing,
PHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES
that is just a tremendous challenge,” Park
continued. She specifi ed that she was not
criticizing any specifi c criminal justice
For those experiencing homelessness,
Levin said, the length of stay has increased
from about 305 days in 2013 to 476, about
a 60% increase for single adults who need
a place to stay. Park pointed to Intro 146,
a bill from the Council which required
her department to expand the rental assistance
voucher program, which is meant
to increase the number of permanent apartments
available for shelter residents.
“I think what we don’t need in terms of
affordable housing are a lot of single units
at 80% of AMI Area Median Income.
We need single units for 40% of AMI and
30% of AMI and 50% of AMI but we
don’t need it at those higher income levels
because that’s not helping people coming
out of shelter,” Levin said.
Sarah Wilson, an organizer with the Urban
Justice Center’s Safety Net Project, has
previously praised that legislation Levin
mentioned but attended Monday’s hearing
to ask the Council to do more. Wilson fi nds
congregate shelters especially dangerous
for homeless single adults, as someone who
has stayed in one before.
“I developed ulcerative colitis due to
the lack of nutrition and stress,” she said.
Wilson said she witnessed other women
in shelters on dialysis because they were
locked out for most of the day in inclement
weather, while in the evenings they were
locked in, unable to leave.
“If you missed a bed, you’re bagged
up and transferred to any borough if not
sanctioned,” Wilson continued.
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12 December 9, 2021 Schneps Media