State Withholds Funds From Some New York City Homeless Shelters
Cuomo administration cites poor conditions in 16 shelters
By Josh Dawsey in the Wall Street Journal
New York state moved Tuesday night to withhold funding from some of New York City’s homeless shelters because of their poor conditions, sparking a fight over near-record homelessness in the city.
In a letter Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration sent to City Hall, the state said 16 shelters were in such poor condition that it would withhold funding until matters improved. The letter from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance said state officials had investigated the shelters in recent days.
The city’s homeless population in shelters is near 57,000 and has risen significantly in recent years. Many of the shelters have multiple violations, according to City Hall, which has already investigated many problems and said Monday it would expedite fixes across the system.
The issue has dogged Mayor Bill de Blasio as he has pitched his message on income inequality outside New York, and homeless advocates say the city needs to do more.
City officials say they inherited a troubled system and are trying to make it better.
“Instead of spending scarce resources to reinspect shelters and issue redundant reports, while citing issues which it knows are already being addressed as an excuse to withhold needed funding, the state should be meeting its own fiscal responsibility to New York City’s homeless families,” said Gilbert Taylor, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.
Mr. de Blasio said last week the city would send teams of workers into the roughest shelters to fix problems, and that it he city allocated $100 million more in next year’s budget to the dilapidated system.
It was unclear how much money would be withheld by the state, which said the dire conditions made the action necessary.
“The violations range from severe electrical, gas, and plumbing issues that have gone uncorrected for a significant period of time and in direct violation of local building codes. Further, several buildings are housing individuals and families despite serious structural issues that could endanger the health of those individuals and families,” the state’s letter said.
The city said many of the state investigations were duplicative, because city officials had already realized the problems and were moving to solve them.
Advocates and others have criticized New York for ending the Advantage program, which subsidized housing for many homeless families.
Mary Brosnahan, the president of Coalition for the Homeless, said she was disappointed with the fighting between the mayor and the governor over the city’s homeless system. Ms. Brosnahan blamed the state—and not the city—because the mayor was trying to solve problems, she said.
She said the state needed to do more than withhold money if the Cuomo administration wanted to fix the problem.
A spokesman for the Cuomo administration said the state added almost $400 million in funding for city homeless programs.