The city is offering to pay friends and family members of homeless shelter residents to take in their less fortunate loved ones for up to a year as part of a new program timed to the holidays.
The “Home for the Holidays” program launched this week, and is being offered to 5,000 families who have been living in shelters for at least 90 days.
The host family will get a taxpayer-funded $500 gift card for their hospitality, and extra money toward their rent.
Depending on the size of the family they take in, the host families will receive $1,200, $1,500 and $1,800 a month for up to a year.
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The homeless family will also get a $500 gift card to help them settle in.
Department of Homeless Service Commissioner Steven Banks said that the program aligns with the administration’s belief that everyone has to pitch in to address the homelessness crisis, which has led to a record number of people living in the shelter system.
“The situation has built up over many decades, and in the city everyone has a role to play,” said Banks.
“Families have to play a role.”
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It has the added bonus of potentially strengthening the support systems for some of the city’s most vulnerable, he said.
“With the holidays, we wanted to redouble our efforts to reconnect people with their families,” said Banks.
“We’re giving them a helping hand.”
The program could also end up saving the taxpayers money.
It costs a whopping $40,000 a year to shelter one family in the system, which is nearly double what the city would pay for a family getting the maximum stipend for the same time period under the new program.
“Home for the Holidays” will primarily target small families with kids, who officials believe will be easier to place.
Homeless services employees have begun reaching out to shelter residents, and will accept applications through the end of December.
Anyone who qualifies will still be considered a shelter resident, and remain eligible for rent subsidy programs like LINC or CITYFEPS.
The city has struggled to get a handle on the homeless crisis, which began growing in the 1990s and has continued to skyrocket under Mayor de Blasio despite an influx of funding on new services and programs.
The city is currently spending a jawdropping $1.6 billion on homelessness.
Despite the huge spending, 60,579 people slept in a city shelter on Wednesday, the last day for which records are available.
Of those shelter residents, 23,741 were children, according to the city’s stats.
Banks said that the idea for the program came after the city launched a holiday-themed initiative last year for homeless veterans.
At the time, the city was trying to end chronic homelessness among vets, and appealed to landlords to take in a vet for the holidays. The appeal was successful — about 1,000 vets found places to live — in part because the holidays softened many hearts, so the city decided to expand the program this year, Banks said.Send a Letter to the Editor