How Much Will Government Do to Shelter the Homeless?
By Ted Walner, Peer Advocate, Baltic Street AEH, Inc.
Plan in Discussion to Step-Up Housing Relief
Approximately 20-25% of the homeless population suffer from some form of mental illness. One can see the homeless trying to survive on the streets of New York. We pass them and feel very sad to see human beings in this condition.
There are several reasons why the mentally ill become homeless. Many of them have difficulty taking care of themselves and managing household responsibilities. They also push away friends and family that might be able to help them. Half of the mentally ill also suffer from substance abuse. They try to self-medicate and become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Their situation makes it difficult to find employment which would lead to residential stability.
Supportive housing is an effective way of combating homelessness among the mentally ill. It costs the state more than $40,000 per person in ER stays, psychiatric hospitals, shelters, and prison, whereas it costs about $17,277 per person to provide supportive housing. With housing, mental health treatment, physical care, employment, and peer support are provided. This support system helps people stay in their homes.
The government has provided a lot of programs for the homeless mentally ill. In February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This includes 1.5 billion dollars for homeless prevention and re-housing. In 1990, former Mayor David Dinkins and former Governor Cuomo signed the NY/NY I agreement to provide housing. Later, in 1999 and 2005, NY/NY II and III agreements were established. These programs have provided housing and social services to single adults and families.
Governor Cuomo discussed his plans to spend $20 billion over the next five years on 100,000 permanent housing units. He said that within New York state, thousands of additional units would be created that provide social services as well.
Mayor de Blasio also discussed his plans for the Fiscal Year 2017. His budget includes funding for 15,000 units of supportive housing over the next fifteen years. He is allocating funds for shelter repairs, and adding additional beds for homeless youth. He is also expanding domestic violence shelters and providing services for homeless veterans as well.
We are making progress, but there is a lot more work to be done. Hopefully, we will continue providing cost-effective solutions that are both moral and humanitarian. If we continue to provide support, perhaps one day this homelessness problem will end.