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Homeless and Housing Committee Meeting recap for Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

(MSCC) John Mudd, August 1, 2019

TO: Committee Members and General Public

FROM: Matt Green, Councilman Corey Johnson’s Office; John Mudd and Sharon Jasprizza, Midtown South Community Council

SUBJECT: Homeless and Housing Committee Meeting recap for Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 at 9:30am, plus upcoming meeting reminder and announcements

PURPOSE: To develop partnerships and resources to identify problems and find solutions for our homeless and housing crisis

DATE: July 22, 2019

FORTHCOMING HOMELESS AND HOUSING MEETING INFORMATION

When: Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Time: 9:30-10:30am

Where: Urban Pathways, 575 8th Avenue, 16th Floor (between 38th & 39th Streets)

Upcoming SPEAKER(S) HRA Representative: Vouchers (TBA)

HOMELESS AND HOUSING MEETING RECAP July 2, 2019

We covered a range of topics during our recent meeting, including DHS work, and medical respite beds.

We continue our conversations on the Voucher program: the process, effectiveness, and complications involved.

CHAIR(S)

 John Mudd, MSCC; Laurie Hardjowirogo, Councilman Corey Johnson’s Office

POLICY COMMITTEE’S REPORT FOR JULY 2, 2019

The prior 8:30am Homeless and Housing Policy meeting wrap-up was presented by Laurie Hardjowirogo (See Addendum A)

SPEAKER(S) 

Leilani Irvin, Office of Government Affairs, Department of Social Services (DSS). Leilani gave the committee an overview of the Department of Social Services (DSS) policies, successes, efforts, and plans. She also discussed DSS voucher policies, provided a historical context, and more…

DSS/DHS

Overview:

  • “DHS safety net to the safety net. Right to shelter state. They have a mandate to shelter and house anyone in need of temporary housing. Like an emergency room, but not the primary care physician.” —Leilani Irvin, DSS
  • During crisis, such as domestic violence, fire, or other, there has to be a place for people to go
  • Chronic homeless and veterans have preference within the voucher program
  • Street homeless should not to be conflated with homeless (housing loss), which is primarily women with children
    • Keeping children in school is challenging
    • DOE has an important and demanding role to ensure education for kids
  • Under this commissioner, DHS has tripled investments in the outreach teams
    • Within an hour that 311 is contacted, the outreach team will engage with individuals bedding down for the night 
  • DHS has seen tremendous success with the HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams); people are coming in for services and a bed
    • An average of 256 engagements are needed before someone will accept services
  • DHS has expanded Safe Haven beds, which is currently the best model for immediate street homeless relief
  • The DHS Commissioner advocates for more affordable and supportive housing, even though he, nor his department, have a mandate to develop such
  • DHS advocates for a number of units, what’s called a 2010E: special housing for some of their residents
  • DHS agrees, affordable and supportive housing is of the utmost importance
    • That’s been the conclusion of this committee pertaining to all areas of the city, state, and nation’s social issue
  • Need more external advocacy. Gentrification, displacement is real
  • HPD deals with conditions of apartments 
    • DHS and HPD are partners; DHS does not have oversight of HPD
  • The Commissioner’s testimonies are available and transparent, he is very “vocal and says what the needs are”
  • The Commissioner shares information and is open to working with advocates
  • DHS is tracking improvements, reductions of recidivism, and who’s coming and exiting
  • There’s been 100,000 moves out since October 2018 to date (7.2.19)
  • At this time when there is usually an increase in children homeless, it is flat; the census has increased with single adults

Efforts/Planning

  • Turning Tide: TurningtheTideNYC is DHS’s comprehensive vision for addressing homelessness. Download “Turning the Tide on Homelessness, Neighborhood by Neighborhood”
  • DHS is emphasizing the closing of commercial hotel shelters; the shelters are not a setting for families
  • Planning is underway to replace the hotel cluster units with 90 new shelters that have proper wrap-around social services to reduce long-term homelessness
  • Investing high quality of social service on site, and implementing many unique best practices, are of high priority
    • The services are preventative: many people are in the system as children, who return to the shelter system (as adults? later in life?)
    • Strong social programs are needed to address trauma

VOUCHERS

Vouchers were the main focus for today. Much has been learned from our previous meetings, much has been corroborated, and many problems highlighted from folks who are servicing and those who are on the servicing end.

Fundamentals

In short, the many vouchers that were being used were consolidated into…

SEPS (FEPS for single adults) and CITYFEPS, which is still funded by city funds [unless “City” is a proper name in this case, it should not be capitalized], but closely mirrors State FHEPS [proper name?] in terms of things like income levels… In terms of how the subsidy process works, the shelter staff (or HomeBase or FHEPS staff if the person is still living in housing in the community) would guide them through the process, collecting documentation and completing forms with the household to submit to DHS… —Eric Lee, united.org (see email Addendum B)

For a comprehensive understanding see Eric Lee, policy analysis, hsunited.org, proposal,“Current and Upcoming Housing Subsidies in NYC”

Basic History

  • The many vouchers were consolidated in November of 2018
  • Before the consolidation of vouchers under FHEPS, a variety of vouchers with their various policies were being used; the outcome was laborious and confusing
  • The Bloomberg administration did away with the Advantage voucher program, which drove many into the shelter system
    • Leilani, who was working for a charity organization during the Advantage Program’s demise, dealt “with a lot of rental arrears and trying to keep people in their homes who lost that [Advantage] voucher…” 
    • Landlords also suffered because funding for the program ended
    • The Section 8 voucher became more attractive because it’s funded and guaranteed on a federal level
    • Carrie (not her real name) noted, from experience, that the Link 1, 2, were complicated

Placement Delays

Placement is difficult with the lack of affordable housing. Delays with placement causes repetitious work and ongoing updates. Carrie almost lost her Section 8 voucher three times because she could [only?] effectively apply it to a rental within a [certain?] time period.

Streamlining the program with FHEPS 

Since the consolidation of vouchers was instituted, the administration saw an increase in who was eligible for help. The simpler, consolidated program is more attractive to landlords; the new voucher covers utilities, deposits, damages, and more. HRA is working to make this new voucher system more attractive with advance payments, and bonuses. 

Even so, landlord’s relationship to the program has its problems.

Discrimination

  • Gladys (not her real name) pays $1,280 in rent; Section 8 covers $800. Landlords have refused to rent to her, some telling her its too low and others saying it’s too high
    • Gladys currently resides at Harmonia Shelter, formerly the Hotel Chandler, on 31st Street
    • Sharlene Hobson and Maria Vasquez, Services for the Under Served (SUS) are looking into her case
  • Carrie (not her real name) was using the HPD Section 8 voucher, “one of the top vouchers,” and she was still unable to obtain housing for three years
  • Carrie found buildings with many vacant apartments, but she was discriminated against
  • Landlords would tell Carrie that she was not making enough, or they would change the rent requirements 
  • Landlords wanted to know: What portion is the responsibility of the renter?
  • There is no question that many people are suffering from housing discrimination, and Charisma was one of them
  • Carrie went to the Commissioner on Human Rights, and worked with them to fight against the discriminatory practices she endured
  • Discriminatory prevention is needed
  • Philip Malebranche suggested that the city does not sufficiently fund oversight, and that landlords are not being held accountable

The lines between law enforcement and legal seem narrow 

Do landlords have to participate in the voucher program? Are landlords legally obligated to accept vouchers? When asked if not accepting vouchers was prejudiced, Leilani responded, “the [Commissioner on] Human Rights pronounced the practice of not accepting vouchers as [a] human rights violation.”

Administration has set up Source of Income Discrimination (SOI) unit to deal with constituent issues. SOI investigates landlords who are bad actors, assisting people being discriminated against.

Asking, “How will you pay for the apartment?” is no longer a question permitted.

DHS will advocate for people by: 

  • Finding them legal representation
  • Reaching out to the landlord to mediate
  • Investigating landlords suspected of acting in bad faith

Legal support is important in order to combat the many unlawful evictions that have taken place. The right to council is a game changer; it connects people to legal support. 

APPLICATION FEES

Laurie Hardjowirogo had a client who was in emergency housing (recently housed), he was working with HASA. While he was diligently looking for permanent housing, he was being charged $100 by brokers for application fees.

Even though HASA is associated with HRA, Leilani (DSS) flagged this issue and is waiting on a response; DSS has no jurisdiction over HASA or HRA.

When one constituent, who we’ll call Jane (name excluded for privacy), mentions to landlords or brokers that she is using a voucher, she is told that she needs to pay for an application fee and background check before moving forward. 

Gladys said that she was charged $40 or $50 for background checks for each person that would be living in the apartment.

Brokers are asking for fees on behalf of the landlord, yet, the vouchers have a stringent vetting process.

The Committee’s General Consensus:

  • This could get costly for an individual
  • The fees might seem small, but to someone being assisted with a voucher it is not, especially when housing is not guaranteed and it is being required by every landlord or application
  • DSS develops extensive files, putting people through rigorous background checks; it seems redundant for renters to have to go through additional scrutiny

If brokers are licensed by state, can New York State take issue with, regulate, or police the repetitive fees? Can they share background information with brokers and landlords, and/or limit charges?

Some of our committee members thought it would be prudent to inquire with the Urban Justice Center or the Legal Aid’s housing experts on this issue. A State licensing representative should also be asked to the table. Licensors/brokers/landlords need to be involved with discussions about application fees. Laurie is gathering a list of brokers and apartments that are asking for these fees. The above mentioned have been added to an action list.

NYDIS

Peter Gudaitis, Executive Director for New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), a faith-based federation representing 60 organizations who work in partnership to provide disaster readiness, response, and recovery services to New York City, represented today. NYDIS looks at homelessness as a humanitarian crisis, and decided to merge with Emergency Network Services (ESN).

In discussing the merger between NYDIS and ESN, Peter’s reasoning was:

  • Disaster services overlaps with the housing crisis 
  • Huge housing insecurity overlaps between people suffering disasters and homeless population
  • Along with disaster recovery and preparedness, housing is realized as an important issue 
  • Climate change has brought more people into NYC to escape rising sea levels
  • Thousands of people come into the city handicapped because of language and job
  • People are coming here, but cannot navigate the housing system
  • Several people from Puerto Rico are in the shelter system

There are 40 congregations around the city (it used to be 70—the connotation here is unclear and follow up with Peter needs to be done). 

The census at respite beds sites is low; all the beds are not fully occupied. Stringent rules make it unlikely for homeless to occupy, as well as conditions such as not having air-conditioning.

Committee member asked if we could construct a policy for all participating shelter network members providing beds to sign onto. Peter said this is quite possible.

MEDICAL RESPITE BEDS

There is a planned visit to meet the principal operators and developer of The McInnis House (a medical respite facility) in Boston (see announcements for dates).

APTs/PUBLIC BATHROOMS

Nothing new was reported at the meeting. Julie Chou and Renee Kinsella, Allen Oster from CB4 will be meeting with John Mudd and other committee members to speak about proposal development to further public bathroom goals, on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

Living Well Workshops 

Rev. Lesly-Ann Hix Tommy of Metro Baptist Church, updated the committee about the upcoming drop-in program, the first life skills event is on July 22, 2019 (see announcements and attached flyer)

PUBLIC CONCERNS

There were no public concerns regarding encampments, large number of homeless gathering. The NYPD was not represented today. 

FOLLOW UP/ACTIONS

  • Respite bed policy needs to be drafted for the respite bed providers within the shelter network to sign onto
  • Vouchers:
    • The committee is to continue to explore the navigation, problems, clarity, and policies of the voucher system
    • Follow up question are needed for Leilani (DSS)
    • Matt Green (Council’s office) requested questions surrounding voucher for a HRA representative for our August 6th meeting
    • Video interviews with constituents dealing with voucher issues: Date and time to be confirmed
    • Email questions about the legality of fees and request Urban Justice personnel to attend
    • Need to review and discuss Urban Justice Center’s report, which “details a number of inefficiencies/challenges that NY residents face when trying to access services at an HRA center,” according to Eric Lee  
    • The list of landlords/brokers asking for application fees has been requested

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • There is a planned visit to meet the principal operators and developer of The McInnis House (a medical respite facility) in Boston. The facility provides care to men and to women, and provides comprehensive medical, nursing, behavioral, dental, and case management services (see Addendum C
    • The new dates which are being considered: September 5-6 or September 12-13th
  • Urban Farms: The Community Court’s courtyard Urban Farm installation is finished for this summer. There are planned additions next year. We’ve planted tomatoes, tomatillos, corn, fennel, cabbage, carrots, radishes, herbs, and two fig trees
  • Laundry For Kids – Update: Raised close to $4,546 and served 182 kids
  • Please support our GoFundMe campaigns: Laundry for Kids and Street Sheets

ADDENDUM A: POLICY COMMITTEE’S RECAP 7.2.19

(Sub-committee of Homeless and Housing Committee) 

Recap For July 2, 2019 Policy Meeting

Name: Home and Housing Policy Committee

Location: Urban Pathways, 575 8th Avenue, 16 floor (between 38th and 39th Street)

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Time: 8:30am-9:30am

MEMBERS PRESENT

Marni Halasa and John Mudd, MSCC; Daniel Pichinson, Ryan Chelsea Ryan Clinic

COMMITTEE’S PURPOSE

Review policies and their oversight, determine actions, suggest and lobby for change!

CHAIR

John Mudd, MSCC chaired. Sitting chair and co-chair Cassie Dessalines and Andrew A.Bonfrancesco were absent

The following topics were discussed…

Medical Respite Beds

  • Discussion of Boston trip: Dates suggested were August 1-2 or 12-13
  • Trip is to get a first-hand look at Boston Health Care medical respite beds
  • Boston Health Care’s budget could provide insight into the actual expense reductions
  • Per Dan Pichinson, Ryan Chelsea Health Clinic, said that the respite bed issue is centered on insurance plans which require the hospital (such as Mount Sinai West) to treat patients and release them as soon as possible. (Ryan Health provides affordable health care services to medically underserved populations.)
  • Dan is checking into Health First in Rochester which has state-funded respite beds (through Medicaid). There is a considerable cost-saving factor to having respite beds.
  • Cassie is arranging the Boston Trip for 10-12 for people who can help push for more respite beds in NYC
  • HJC plans to fund medical respite center across the city and is looking for partnerships
    • Cassie is to report more information to come after Webinar session

OLD BUSINESS

  • Andrew was talking about inconsistencies regarding psychological evaluations to enter a respite site

FURTHER PLANNING

  • Cassie’s study (see May 7th Recap) Available upon request 
  • Adding policies concerning chronicity to our task list
  • Andrew: psychosocial and psychiatric evaluation policies in order to enter respite sites *Add-on
  • Review Core objectives
  • Review Voucher policies and oversight

ADDENDUM B: VOUCHER

Eric Lee, united.org:

FHEPS is the state funded subsidy that used to be called FEPS, and a couple years ago was changed due to Legal Aid Society successfully bringing suit against the State, saying that the rent income levels were way too low to be able to find an apartment. 

“SEPS (feps for single adults) and CityFEPS, which is still funded by City funds, but closely mirrors State FHEPS in terms of things like income levels. HRA to shift as much cost to the State as possible given the high cost of subsidies, requires that in order to be able to receive CityFHEPS, you must not be eligible for State FHEPS. (i.e. can’t get CityFHEPS if you are able to get FHEPS instead).

Additional update from Eric Lee:

…housing specialist’s job is to work with residents to find apartments, but because of high caseload ratios (1 staff per 40 families, as set by DHS), shelter residents may not see them as often as they like. That said, DHS does emphasize shelter move-outs, and regularly speaks with individual programs regarding their move numbers. Many shelter residents also do housing searches on their own, much in the same way that you or I would—by looking online or cold-calling listings we see. Unfortunately, there is no “magic list” that compiles all the brokers in one place—it’s a very labor-intensive endeavor and pavement pounding.

In terms of how the subsidy process works, the shelter staff (or HomeBase or FHEPS staff if the person is still living in housing in the community) would guide them through the process, collecting documentation and completing forms with the household to submit to DHS…Urban Justice Center’s report on HRA centers…[which] details a number of inefficiencies/challenges that NY residents face when trying to access services at an HRA center.

Eric Lee’s comprehensive proposal on subsidies: “Current and Upcoming Housing Subsidies in NYC” [BAD LINK]

ADDENDUM C: BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL RESPITE BED

RESPITE CARE PROVIDERS’ NETWORK | 2015 MEDICAL RESPITE PROGRAM DIRECTORY 

MASSACHUSETTS / Barbara McInnis House 

Agency: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
Address: Jean Yawkey Place, 780 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118 Contact: Sarah Ciambrone, Executive Director, Barbara McInnis House Phone: (857) 654-1701
Fax: (857) 654-1421
E-mail: sciambrone@bhchp.org
Website: www.bhchp.org 

Description / Established 1993

Since 1988, medical respite care has been an essential component of the continuum of healthcare services provided by the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP). Originating as shelter-based medical beds, medical respite care for men and women is now provided in one freestanding facility, the 104-bed Barbara McInnis House which is housed in the top three floors of Jean Yawkey Place on Albany Street in Boston and located across the street from Boston Medical Center. 

Jean Yawkey Place is home not only to the medical respite program but also the dental program, a busy pharmacy and ambulatory clinic, and administration for Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. 

The McInnis House provides care to men and to women, and provides comprehensive medical, nursing, behavioral, dental, and case management services in an environment sensitive to the needs of homeless adults. 

The McInnis House offers three meals per day that are served in the dining room. Patients recuperate in private, semi-private or two to six bedrooms. The program admits patients 24 hours per day, seven days a week from hospitals, shelters, emergency departments, outpatient clinics, and directly from the street by referral from the BHCHP Street Team. 

Profile 

Operating agency: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (HCH) 

Facility type: Stand-alone 

Number of respite beds: 104

Hours of operation: Admissions office – Monday thru Friday, 8am-4:30pm Average length of stay: approximately 12 days 

Admission Criteria 

• Primary medical problem 

• Psychiatrically stable 

• Independent in Activities of Daily Living 

• In need of short-term recuperative care 

• If on methadone, must be enrolled in methadone maintenance program 

• Disclosure of known communicable disease, including TB, VRE and MRSA

ADDENDUM D: WORKSHOP / EVENT FLYER