June 2, 2016

New York State Launches Phase One of Unprecedented $10.4 Billion Homelessness Action Plan

New York State Launches Phase One of Unprecedented $10.4 Billion Homelessness Action Plan

Request for Proposals Issued for 1,200 Units of Supportive Housing Immediately Provides More Than 500 Beds for Homeless Individuals in New York City Statewide Shelter Inspection Complete Creates Interagency Council on Homelessness to Guide Policy

Today, New York State announced the launch of Phase One of the Homelessness Action Plan, which is part of a multifaceted, focused and comprehensive package of initiatives involving multiple agencies. In his 2016 State of the State address, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a historic $10.4 billion commitment to combat homelessness statewide over the next five years, which includes $2.6 billion for new supportive housing units and $7.8 billion for continuing commitments in support of existing supportive housing units, shelter beds, and other homeless services.

In remarks this morning at the Supportive Housing Network of New York State’s annual conference, New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner James S. Rubin outlined phase one of the Action Plan, which includes:

  • Issuing a Request for Proposals for 1,200 units of supportive housing. The RFP is the first phase of the $2.6 billion plan to develop 6,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years.
  • Addressing inadequate shelter housing in New York City by providing to the City of New York more than 500 beds in underused state and state-licensed facilities for the homeless.
  • Creating an Interagency Council on Homelessness to explore targeted solutions to homelessness and recommend best practices and policies to meet the ongoing needs of communities and individuals.
  • Completing inspections of all 916 homeless shelters in the state and taking action to improve the conditions in homeless shelters so facilities are safe, clean and well-maintained.

Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner James S. Rubin said: “With unprecedented financial assistance to combating homelessness, Governor Cuomo’s action plan is a broad, wide-reaching approach to addressing one of our society’s most troubling and intransigent problems. It’s comprehensive in the sense that it serves the entire state, but is designed to be flexible in the solutions it prescribes – understanding that there is no one way to solve homelessness. New York has always been ready and able to look to novel approaches and good ideas to solve what some would see as intractable issues. New York pioneered the Supporting Housing model and thanks to Governor Cuomo’s deep commitment to confronting the many root causes of chronic homelessness, we continue to lead.”

Permanent Support Housing
The Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative Request for Proposals announced today and issued by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) seeks to fund approximately 1,200 units of permanent Supportive Housing. These units will serve vulnerable individuals with special needs, and will include a variety of supportive services tailored to their needs such as employment training, counseling, independent living skills training, benefits advocacy and assistance in obtaining and maintaining primary and mental healthcare.

Proposals are due within 45 days and conditional award notifications will be made at the end of August. Funds awarded through the Empire State RFP will finance the operation and services provided by supportive housing; construction funding is available through a number of other New York State and local capital funding programs and is not covered under this RFP.

Emergency Shelter Beds
In addition, the state has identified 513 emergency shelter beds in underused state and state-licensed facilities to provide immediate relief for the street homeless population and homeless individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems. The state will work with the City of New York to identify providers with the experience and expertise to successfully manage these facilities.

State-wide Interagency Council on Homelessness
In December 2015, more than 100 nonprofit leaders who address homelessness met with State agency heads about their work. To help guide and improve the State’s ongoing response to homelessness and move beyond the idea that there is one solution to homelessness, Governor Cuomo is forming the Interagency Council on Homelessness, co-chaired by Fran Barrett, the Governor’s Interagency Coordinator for Not-for-Profit Services, and HCR Commissioner James S. Rubin.

Charged with taking a comprehensive look at the problem of homelessness statewide, the Interagency Council will work collaboratively over the next 24 months with providers and local governments to identify problems, pursue solutions and establish a creative and flexible set of best practices, including ensuring a statewide Continuum of Care and conducting a thorough review of policies and procedures that can eliminate barriers to service.

The Interagency Council will provide an opportunity to continue that important dialogue and will begin its work immediately, with plans to issue its first report in December 2016. The Council members include:

  • Dr. Rosa Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife
  • Tony Hannigan, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Services
  • Deborah Damm O'Brien, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Housing of Albany
  • Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Senior Advisor to the President of Hunter College, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYC Health + Hospitals
  • John Paul Perez, Partner Relations Associate, Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS)
  • Reverend Dr. Maria Scates, CEO of Utica’s Johnson Park Center
  • Melissa Spicer, Executive Director, Clear Path for Veterans
  • Christine Quinn, President and CEO of WIN
  • Bobby Watts, Executive Director of Care for the Homeless
  • Dale Zuchlewski, Executive Director, Homeless Alliance of Western New York

The Council is comprised of community leaders from across New York State, as well as representatives from state agencies, including the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Office of Mental Health, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Children and Family Services, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Department of Health, including the AIDS Institute, and the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

Statewide Inspection Initiative
Improving the conditions in homeless shelters so facilities are safe, clean and well-maintained is central to the success of the Homelessness Action Plan. In the State of the State, the Governor announced an unprecedented coordinated effort to undergo inspections at every shelter across the state. Those inspections have officially been completed. The State’s multiagency homeless shelter inspection initiative, led by OTDA, uncovered deficiencies in 97 percent of shelters in New York State. These include thousands of housing quality issues that affect the health, safety and quality of life of the residents. These violations are unacceptable. In response, today the state is announcing that it will:

  • Require all homeless shelters using public funds to be subject to direct state regulation and inspected annually by the State, including for the first time shelters previously categorized as ‘uncertified’ shelters
  • Require deficiencies at shelters be cured within specified deadlines (outlined below) or the State will take enforcement action including, but not limited to, closing shelters, installing a Temporary Operator, withholding reimbursement and/or limiting intake of new residents.
  • Require the operator of each emergency shelter to submit a security plan to its local social services district and require each district to submit a comprehensive security plan to OTDA for approval. Regulations will also require that all serious security incidents be immediately reported to the State.
  • Review and approve the per diem rates set for all types of shelters. The State found that rates paid to shelter operators by local social service districts vary widely, irrespective of the quality and conditions of the shelter and the social services it provides. The State will ensure that reimbursement rates are appropriate for the type of shelter services being provided and are sufficient to keep the shelter safe, clean and well-maintained.

Today, all local social services districts received individualized reports of the findings. The State will work with local social service districts to develop a corrective action plan for all shelters with violations. The corrective action plan will require the shelter operator to provide satisfactory evidence that it has remedied the violation.

Additional actions will be taken in the case of shelters with the most severe violations:

  • The State shall place certain shelters under a temporary operator unless violations of regulations have been resolved within 90 days.
  • Shelters with the most severe violations per unit will be subject to closure in 180 days if violations are not fully addressed.

Any shelter required to submit a closure plan must ensure that residents are placed either in permanent housing or in another shelter before the closure date. It is the responsibility of the local district to ensure that all current residents are appropriately housed before the shelter is closed. The State will track all residents in such shelters to confirm that they have been properly placed in permanent housing or a shelter that is clean, safe and well-maintained.

The multiagency team inspected all 916 homeless shelters across the State over a 35-day period. Inspectors found 25,815 violations of habitability and safety standards that affected the health and safety of shelter residents, including 4,344 violations rated as severe.

The full report can be viewed here.

Interagency Coordinator for Not-for-Profit Services Fran Barrett said: “The homeless situation is dire. By combining the skills and experience of both State Agencies and private experts, we will begin to reverse a trend that has resulted in more than 88,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night throughout the State. The Governor is acutely aware of the remarkable rate of increase of homeless families and is tasking this Interagency Council with arriving at cross-cutting common sense solutions.”

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan said: “Governor Cuomo’s historic investment in the battle against homelessness will provide thousands of New York residents with the support they need to rebuild their lives. For individuals struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders, a safe place to live with integrated services is a proven route to recovery and resilience. The Governor’s plan will improve the lives of our most vulnerable residents by bringing together agencies, communities, and service providers to create tangible solutions that seek to end homelessness in New York State.”

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel Roberts said: “This comprehensive, statewide review of homeless housing is an important first step to creating standards that must be met. Access to a home of one’s own, whether it is a single room or an apartment, can empower people who are troubled or otherwise down on their luck to look forward to a brighter, independent future.”

Lilliam Barrios Paoli, Senior Advisor to the President of Hunter College, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYC Health + Hospitals said: “Governor Cuomo’s commitment to investing in affordable housing and tackling the homelessness crisis is bringing New York into a brighter tomorrow. From establishing and interagency council on homelessness to kicking off the development of 1,200 units of desperately needed supportive housing, New York is tackling the homeless crisis head on. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this issue and look forward to seeing the impact this historic investment will have in the lives of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Dr. Rosa Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife said: “Today’s actions announced by New York State are imperative to mitigating the homelessness crisis. By providing funding for new housing units, beds and supportive services, the State is taking an aggressive step toward ensuring that those in need have access to resources that will place them on the road towards health, recovery and prosperity. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this issue, and his commitment to improving the lives of all New Yorkers.”​

Tony Hannigan, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Services said: “Working on the Interagency Council on Homelessness is a great opportunity for me and for all of us working on this to help shape better systems of services and housing for homeless individuals and families in New York.”

Deborah Damm O'Brien, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Housing of Albany said: "Governor Cuomo and NYS are leading the way in the fight against homelessness, proving that no matter how pervasive, or seemingly unconquerable, government and its partners can successfully tackle this crisis. This comprehensive action plan not only keeps more people off the streets, but ensures the homeless and vulnerable that they can have hope and a home. Today New York's moral compass is pointed in the right direction, and I am proud play a role by serving on the Interagency Advisory Council." ​​

John Paul Perez, Partner Relations Associate, Finger Lakes Performing Provider System said: “Combatting homelessness is a challenge, but the action plan announced today by New York State gives protection and hope to countless individuals and families across New York. I am proud to be a part of Governor Cuomo’s Statewide Interagency Council on Homelessness, where we will continue our work in combatting this crisis by developing real policy recommendations and provide insight into the growing problem across New York."

Christine Quinn, President and CEO of WIN said: “As the impact of homelessness grows in our communities, Governor Cuomo has once again stepped up to the plate and is delivering real, tangible solutions for all New Yorkers. These groundbreaking initiatives, including the development of 1,200 units of supportive housing will make a fundamental difference in the lives of New York’s children and families. I thank Governor Cuomo for his comprehensive efforts to combat this crisis, and I look forward being a proud partner in this action plan.”

Brenda Rosen, President and CEO of Breaking Ground said: "We cannot thank Governor Andrew Cuomo enough for his continued commitment to helping homeless New Yorkers restore their lives. Transitional housing is a critical resource to break the cycle of housing instability and homelessness for some of our most vulnerable clients. The Governor's generous assistance of state-run facilities for transitional housing development will be an invaluable resource in our efforts to end homelessness.”

Muzzy Rosenblatt, Executive Director of BRC said: "I'm grateful for and inspired by Governor Cuomo's dogged determination to maintain a focus on the needs of homeless New Yorkers, our most vulnerable neighbors, and his continued commitment to create the opportunities and provide the resources that can and will make a positive and meaningful impact on people's lives. His leadership evokes the spirit of FDR, who said "the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have little."

Reverend Dr. Maria A. Scates, D.D. CEO/Founder of Utica’s Johnson Park Center said: “Homelessness – the visible and the hidden – illuminates the division between those who have and those who have not. The state’s action plan provides powerful, real-world solutions to real-world problems, and drives these actions forward with an unprecedented investment in combatting the homelessness crisis. As someone who has faced homelessness personally, I commend Governor Cuomo for his leadership in working to strengthen the New York family.”

Melissa Spicer, Executive Director, Clear Path for Veterans said: "Homelessness is a crisis in New York, and Governor Cuomo has put forth a solutions-based approach that addresses the causes of this pervasive moral dilemma. Ensuring that our veterans, who have put their lives in harm's way to safeguard our protections, have a safe and comfortable place to call home is a priority, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to protecting a population that should be assets to New Yorkers, not living in homelessness."

Dale Zuchlewski, Executive Director, Homeless Alliance of Western New York said: “Homelessness has been a crisis in our state for decades – but with this robust action plan, New York is launching an unprecedented response to attack this problem head-on. By immediately providing funding for more than 1,200 supportive housing units, 500 beds, and supportive services, those in need will have better access to the resources necessary to help them get off the streets and on a path toward a brighter future. I commend Governor Cuomo for his commitment to improving the quality of life for millions of people across the state.”

Bobby Watts, Executive Director of Care for the Homeless, New York City said: “We have had a great example at the federal level of an Interagency Council has helped to marshal resources. It is one of the best investments we can make to address homelessness.”

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