Cuomo Bolsters Supportive Housing

Yesterday was a blockbuster day for supportive housing. Elected officials across the country should take note that supportive housing is on the rise, being enthusiastically embraced by policymakers who want to effectively reduce homelessness while addressing other challenges in our society.

What happened is unprecedented. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his commitment to increase the supply of supportive housing in the Empire State by 20,000 units. When we add this amount to the plan put forth by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in November for 15,000 new units in New York City, we now have a consensus that will boost supportive housing by 35,000 units statewide over the next fifteen years.

This is very good news for vulnerable people in need of affordable homes and their advocates, including the dedicated CSH staff in New York, who have spent countless hours identifying the overwhelming demand for more affordable housing and services, working through the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing to secure the 35,000 units from the City and State.

When the New York State Supportive Housing Need Assessment was released last October, the numbers said it all. Based on individuals and families identified as homeless in 2013, New York leaders had to take immediate steps to create over 30,000 supportive housing units throughout the state. If not, the rates of homelessness and risks would continue to rise beyond any manageable levels.

Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio heeded what the facts were telling us and took bold action to meet the issue head on.

What they concluded is that supportive housing - affordable rental apartments that become a platform for accessing important services such as healthcare and employment - will get the job done.

Their plans will cost billions of dollars. If they had focused on just that, they may have hesitated. But what the Governor and Mayor recognize, and others should too, is that doing nothing, keeping people on our streets, taxes federal, state and local budgets far more heavily than creating supportive housing. Bottom Line: You and I pay more to address the emergency crisis care associated with homelessness than we do to fund supportive housing.

Not every person or family experiencing homelessness requires supportive housing. But study after study has confirmed it works to address the housing and services needs of people who have been homeless for long or recurring periods, those sometimes referred to as hard-core or chronic. For these individuals, who avoid shelters and fall in and out of other programs, supportive housing is the only answer. They are the people most frequently encountered on our streets and if we do not help them through coordinated and comprehensive approaches, we will never really address what in some areas has become a crisis.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are two national leaders who get it. They are throwing down the gauntlet and saying very passionately that it's time to really help people. No more band-aids, no more excuses.