Hoping to put pressure on the next crop of lawmakers, a coalition of homeless advocates released a policy guide Monday advising the new mayor and City Council on how to address the growing problem of homelessness.
More than 57,000 people live in shelters and sleep on sidewalks, public transit or parks, the coalition said, and this number continues to increase.
While the human cost is staggering, the coalition also notes the Department of Homeless Services oversees a $1 billion budget. The city spends more than $2,000 per single adult and roughly $3,000 for every homeless family each month, according to estimates from the Independent Budget Office and shelter records.
To tackle this social and fiscal problem, the coalition has proposed "solutions-based" policies — those based on research and other success stories in other cities.
One such proposal includes creating an Interagency Council on Homelessness, uniting the dozen or so agencies with programs impacting the homeless, including the corrections, finance and health departments.
The policy book cites certain areas where the next mayor and City Council can decrease homelessness, most notably by creating more affordable housing and implementing preventive programs.
The coalition urges the next mayor to create a similar rent subsidy program to Advantage, which the city ended in 2011 over state funding concerns. Many advocates believe the end of that subsidy program exacerbated the current rise.
"Poor policy choices helped create modern day homelessness, and better public policy can end it," Bobby Watts, executive director of Care for the Homeless, said in a statement on the policy book's release.
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota has said that focusing on job creation is the solution to rising levels of homeless in the city and even suggested he supports amending the state constitution to guarantee the right to shelter for everyone.
The coalition's policy book, though it stresses shelter is not the solution to homelessness, says ensuring shelter through this law should even be expanded to include runaway and homeless youth as well as domestic violence shelters.
For his part, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio would reduce "bureaucratic red tape" preventing New Yorkers from accessing shelter.
His policy book also says he would create a new support program for at-risk families.
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