Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is getting behind a program she says could prevent families from becoming homeless. A state proposal called The Home Stability Support program would provide a new rent supplement for those who are eligible for public assistance. Miner says the program could expand upon the efforts of the city and county to keep families out of shelters and off the streets.
"If your family is receiving public assistance, and cannot afford to pay the rent, your city and your state would be able to help keep you in your home, and we would make up the difference," Miner said. "We know that it's much easier to deal with the issues and problems when people are in their homes with their support systems and networks."
Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi is leading the cause at the state capital. He says the State’s current homeless crisis has not been this critical since the Great Depression. Hevesi says there’s an estimated 150,000 homeless children, and it’s not declining. He says the New York State shelter allowance has not increased to match the current need since 1975.
"The reason why we're addressing it now is because we've come to critical mass," Hevesi said. "The state has not been doing its job for decades. It's even been sued for not increasing the shelter allowance. We're finally saying enough is enough, we have to change the policy, which will in turn not only save tens of thousands of households including children, but also save taxpayers lots of money."
Executive director of the Samaritan Center MaryBeth Frey says losing a home can be catastrophic for kids.
"You can't imagine the disruption to a child, who, when they find this grounding and find this foundation at school with teachers and a support network, suddenly has that taken away from them," Frey said. "They're suddenly in a shelter trying to figure out what life is now. This initiative would help those kids stay connected to school that then determines very much their future."
After eviction, domestic violence is the second leading driver of homelessness. Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman says they typically shelter more than 400 people per year.
"About half of those people are children, many of them under the age of 5," Bregman said. "They'll come in to our shelter, get an order of protection, establish some of the things they need to establish, and be ready to move on and out to create a stable home for their families. But to find safe, affordable housing in our city is the greatest challenge we face to help people exit our shelter."
Mayor Miner acknowledges there’s a shortage of safe, affordable housing for struggling families. But she says the city is currently working with its partners on housing initiatives. Assemblyman Hevesi says he has a broad coalition of bi-partisan support for the Home Stability Support Program, and hopes it can become part of the budget conversation in Albany.