Blaming State, City Halts Housing Program for Homeless

The city is halting its only program for moving homeless families and single adults from shelters into permanent apartments and they're blaming the stoppage on state budget cuts.  The Advantage program provides a two-year rental subsidy. Nearly all shelter residents rely on it to find permanent places to live. 

As of Monday, no new leases will be signed, according to the city. In addition, 15,000 families already using the voucher will have their rental assistance end come April. 

The Department of Homeless Services predicted dire consequences: a 51 percent increase in the shelter population by June of 2012 and the need for 70 new shelters within the coming months.

Seth Diamond, Commissioner of Homeless Services, said with no commitment to restore funds, the city had no choice: "There simply is no money. We didn't do it earlier because then maybe people might have said it was a tactic."

The city reported the housing voucher costs $140 million per year -- $48 million of which comes from the city and the rest comes from the state and federal government.

The state disputed those numbers and maintains that if the program were a priority the city would use other funding streams, such as federal welfare money to keep it running.

Diamond said there is no other money other than what's already allocated and that would have to go toward opening new shelters. 

In a written statement, Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "In the midst of a budget process, it is counterproductive and disingenuous to announce a crisis of the day."

Programs charged with helping homeless families move out of shelters were notified of the voucher stoppage Friday. 

Scott Cotinoff from Partnership for the Homeless runs one of these programs and said whether this is politics are not, "it will have a real impact on people's lives."