Weekly Links for Resources and Solutions for the Homeless (Take a Stand Against Homelessness): 6/15/11
1. Should Homeless 19-Year-Olds be Allowed in Foster Care? by Jason Salzman:
Last month, state Rep. J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio) took heat from ColoradoPols for standing alone in a 64-to-1 vote against a bill that would, among other things, allow homeless youth shelters to temporarily house youth ages 11 to 21. Today, only homeless kids ages 15 to 18 are defined as “homeless youth” under state law and can be served by youth shelters.
On Monday, when the bill returned to the state House from the Senate, where it was approved 34-0, Brown wasn’t as lonely.
Ten of Brown’s colleagues changed their minds and joined him in opposing the “Reduce Homeless Youth” bill, which was essentially unchanged from the version that passed 64 to 1 in February — except for the addition of reporting requirements which were unanimously adopted.
“I struggled with it a little bit the first time because of that extension of age,” said Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, who had originally favored the measure but voted against it Monday. “As we look at the budget and as we look at the situation in the country overall, we have to at some point ask ourselves, when are we going to call ourselves adults and hold people accountable and look at their personal responsibility.”
“When are we going to require folks to be adults?” Beezley said. “They vote at 18. They go to war at 18.”
I asked Beezley about the part of the bill that expands the definition of “homeless youth” under Colorado law to include kids ages 11 through 14. Would he have favored the bill if the 18-to-21-year-olds were excluded?
“Yes, potentially, but I’d have to look at it again,” he answered, adding that he had fiscal concerns about the bill too.
“Extend those definitions and you expend more dollars over time,” Beezley said.
That was the primary reason Rep. Brown gave for opposing the bill in his 64-to-1 stand last month — and the reason for his solo vote was not reported at the time.
2. Don’t Play Politics With the Homeless by Liz Krueger:
Often, they are right. My colleagues and I have fought hard to restore cuts to schools, healthcare and services for the disabled, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. But not every program Albany funds is a winner. Some, like New York City’s “Advantage” program for homeless New Yorkers, are ineffective and a poor use of our limited resources.
Advantage aims to move families out of the shelter system and into their own apartments — a crucial and important goal. But its bureaucratic rules and rigid cutoff dates have resulted in many people who enter the program, ending up back on the streets or returning to the City’s overcrowded homeless shelters. This winter, the City’s own data confirmed that one-third of those who left the program ended up homeless again. In short, the program simply isn’t working.
The program has been paid for through a mix of City and State funds, but this year Governor Cuomo made the hard choice to end the State’s portion of that funding. In response, Mayor Bloomberg has threatened to end the program completely and immediately, even pulling the rug out from those who are currently utilizing the services. The City’s Department of Homeless Services has even sent letters to the 15,000 households currently enrolled in the Advantage program, notifying them that their subsidy would be terminated, leaving many to fear that they could be back out on the streets in just a few months.
This unnecessary, alarmist response serves no purpose other than to make headlines. As state officials and homeless policy experts have argued, New York City can responsibly phase out the failed Advantage program and return to alternative programs that we know work, like moving qualified families into Federal housing programs, such as public housing and Section 8. That was the proven approach used by the City for decades (even under Mayor Giuliani!), and that has helped thousands of families move into permanent, affordable homes and restart their lives. But as of now, Mayor Bloomberg and the City have not proposed an alternative solution, instead they have simply said it’s either this program or none at all. I see no sense in that.
The Coalition for the Homeless, New York’s leading voice for sensible, effective homelessness policy, has launched an online letter writing campaign, calling on the Mayor to stop the scare tactics and go back to the cost effective programs that we know can reduce family homelessness.