Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has asked for $40 million in state funds as the centerpiece of a new program to help fight a dramatic surge in homelessness in the city.
De Blasio has made fighting homelessness a priority of his first year in office. The number of people without permanent homes has skyrocketed in recent years and as of last week more than 53,000 people, including nearly 23,000 children, slept in city shelters, according to city officials.
The mayor’s staff has begun to unveil part of the administration’s plan. On Monday, Gilbert Taylor, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Homeless Services, told a City Council budget hearing that a major piece of the proposal is an $80 million rental assistance program that would aim to get families out of shelters.
The city plans to fund half of that program and get the rest from the state. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team has not signed off on the plan. The program is designed to help replace a larger rental assistance program known as Advantage that was scuttled in 2011, contributing to the rise in the city’s homeless.
The new program would be directed at families that have been living in shelters for more than a year and have at least one adult working at least 35 hours a week for a few months. City officials estimate that should help more than 3,000 families over the next four years. That is far less than the defunct Advantage program, which worries some advocates.