Working Poor Families Struggle To Make Ends Meet In Today’s Housing Market; New Programs Offer Hope
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2015

A number of new programs are opening to help working poor families get out of homeless shelters and into permanent housing. Programs without the safety net of rent subsidies aren’t likely to be successful in the long run for workers with tenuous jobs, Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit, told the Wall Street Journal.

“A family of $35,000 can pay about $875 a month in rent,” she said. “What happens if someone is losing hours or is a home health aide and the person they are caring for needs less hours, or they die?”




The Wall Street Journal
For New York City’s Working Poor, New Help in Getting Out of Homeless Shelters
Low-wage earners can pay monthly rent but struggle with credit and income requirements
May 19, 2015
By Corinne Ramey

Last summer, a pipe burst in the Bronx apartment where Ayra Garcia lived with her 15-year-old niece. The water damage was so bad that they couldn’t live there anymore.

But despite the $31,243 a year that Ms. Garcia then made as a teacher, she didn’t have the savings to pay the three months of rent and a security deposit on a new apartment.

With no other options, she and her niece spent five months in homeless shelters.

“I was very nervous and very scared,” Ms. Garcia, 37, said Monday, sitting outside the Bronx school where she works with special-needs children. “This is something I definitely didn’t want.”

Ms. Garcia is one of a group of New Yorkers in a housing quandary: low-wage earners who live in shelters but have enough money to pay monthly rent. What they struggle with is the credit and income requirements that many landlords require.

In February, Ms. Garcia moved into an apartment through Come Home NYC, a program operated by the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners that aims to connect homeless families with affordable housing and provide insurance to landlords.

On Tuesday, Come Home NYC is set to receive $1.5 million from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Robin Hood Foundation, which will allow it to place up to 300 families in affordable housing, up from 34 today.

About $300,000 is coming from the foundation and $1.2 million is from the attorney general’s office, the result of housing-market settlements with banks.

The $1.5 million is used as insurance and to cover operating costs, not to pay rent.

“We’ve been very much focused on trying to see that as much of this money as possible goes to help the communities and families that were hurt by the housing crisis,” Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview. “Landlords are going to want to come into the Come Home NYC program, because we’re creating an incentive for them to do so.”

Compared with the $500 million that the city allocated to its homeless services agency in fiscal 2015, Come Home NYC’s $1.5 million in funding is small.

But the program, which launched in November, is a new approach to a persistent and increasing problem.

On the average night in March, there were 60,067 homeless people sleeping in New York City shelters, a 69% increase in the past decade , according to Coalition for the Homeless, a homeless-advocacy group.

“We are seeing more and more families who are, quote unquote, doing everything right,” said Sally Greenspan, program director at Enterprise. “In the city of a couple of decades ago, they would have been able to find housing, but because of the extraordinary tightness of the housing market they’re homeless.”

To qualify for Come Home NYC, families must live in a homeless shelter and have children. While the average annual income is about $35,000, a family of four can make from about $23,000 to $50,000 and still qualify, said Ms. Greenspan. The majority are single-parent families.

An electrician who previously lived in a Queens shelter moved into a Bronx apartment in April through the program.

“Because of my credit, it’s not enough. I needed a cosigner, but I couldn’t get one,” said Saviour, who declined to give his last name because he wanted to protect the privacy of his 6- and 8-year-old sons. “I couldn’t find nothing.”

A Department of Homeless Services program, called Living in Communities, or LINC, began in September and provides families in shelters with rent subsidies and assists them in finding apartments.

But homelessness experts said the more innovative programs there are, the better.

“The city and state and not-for-profit are looking at every possible way to move the dial on this problem,” said Bonnie Stone, president and chief executive of Win, a nonprofit that houses homeless families with children but is unaffiliated with Come Home NYC.

“This is a relatively small and interesting and good piece of the puzzle,” she said.

Programs without the safety net of rent subsidies aren’t likely to be successful in the long run for workers with tenuous jobs, said Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge at the Legal Aid Society’s civil law reform unit.

“A family of $35,000 can pay about $875 a month in rent,” she said. “What happens if someone is losing hours or is a home health aide and the person they are caring for needs less hours, or they die?”

Sitting in front of her Bronx school, Ms. Garcia swiped through her phone, and pulled up a photo of her keychain. “When I got my keys, it was the best day of my life,” she said.