Queens pol's plan to address homeless crisis gains support

A Queens state assemblyman's plan to address the homeless crisis is gaining bipartisan steam in both houses of the Legislature.

Andrew Hevesi has been pushing a plan, first reported by the Daily News in September, that he calls the Home Stability Support program. It’s intended to reduce reliance on homeless shelters by creating a new rent subsidy to keep people in their homes.

This week, Hevesi and 110 of his Democratic and Republican Assembly colleagues — including Dem Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and GOP Minority Leader Brian Kolb — sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo pushing for its enactment.

"The problem of homelessness has reached a critical juncture, and the costs to our communities are unsustainable," Hevesi and his 110 colleagues wrote to Cuomo. “It is time to boldly and adequately attack the preventable causes of record homelessness."

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Meanwhile, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, the leader of a breakaway group of Senate Democrats, said his conference will push the bill in his chamber.

“The real solution to the explosive homelessness problem is by keeping individuals and families in their homes and out of the shelter system, not by using pricey hotels and motels riddled with open violations all over the city,” said Klein (D-Bronx).

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said “we will review the letter and this proposal on its merits.”

Under Hevesi’s plan, a mishmash of state and local rent subsidies that he says are no longer effective would be replaced with a single state program for families and individuals facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or other dangerous conditions.

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Currently, Hevesi said, there are more than 80,000 households on the brink of homelessness that would be eligible if the program is enacted by the Legislature and governor this year.

Hevesi said his program would cost the state and feds $450 million, but ultimately save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by relying less on costly shelters.

Klein said the plan makes sense.

“By providing this level of stability to families and individuals in the long-term, the Home Stability Support program will help get people back on their feet in apartments, and in a much more cost effective and time efficient way,” Klein said.

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Part of the current problem of keeping people in their homes is that a shelter allowance created by the state in 1975 covered the full rents of the vast majority of those on public assistance, but hasn't kept up with the increase in rents over the years, he said.

But simply raising the shelter allowance wouldn’t work because it would reduce federally-funded food stamp funding that would offset any rental help and force more people onto public assistance, he said.

While Azzopardi said Cuomo will review the proposal, he urged the lawmakers who signed the letter to the governor to push for their houses to finalize an agreement to allow to be released $2 billion already appopriated in the state budget for the building of thousands of supportive housing units. Cuomo, he said, already has signed the memorandum of understanding.

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