Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Director of Policy and Communications
March 13, 2023
Thank you, Deputy Speaker Ayala, Chair Brannan, members of the City Council General Welfare and Finance Committees, and Council Staff for holding this Oversight Hearing on the Preliminary Budget and the opportunity to submit written testimony.
Founded in 1994, New Destiny’s mission is to end the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness for low-income families and individuals by developing and connecting them to safe, permanent, affordable housing and services. We build and manage supportive housing, and, through our innovative programs, we assist survivors in finding permanent housing and remaining stably housed. New Destiny is currently the largest provider of supportive housing for domestic violence survivors in New York and a leading advocate in the effort to obtain the resources needed to end family homelessness.
New Destiny is a co-convener of the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC), a broad group of organizations and impacted advocates committed to tackling homelessness among families in our city.
Domestic violence has been the number one driver of family homelessness in New York City for years, followed by evictions.1 In FY 2022, 39% of families who entered the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system identified domestic violence as the primary reason for their homelessness.2 The separate domestic violence shelter system, managed by the Human Resources Administration (HRA), was used by 10,201 adults and children in 2021, 95% of whom were families with minors.3 With so few housing resources, once in shelter, survivors are far more likely to remain in shelter rather than to move to an apartment. Fifty three percent of survivors with minors that left HRA emergency domestic violence shelter in 2021 moved to another shelter instead of permanent housing. That is more than 1 in 2 families that left shelter for shelter.
The affordable housing shortage only exacerbates the plight of survivors as they strive to re-gain stability. Across New York State, there is no county or locality where a renter earning minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom apartment.4 In New York City, over half of renters pay more than 30% of their monthly income in rent and one third pay more than 50%.5 The median rent for a one-bedroom unit in the five boroughs has risen 20% to $3,267 over the last three years, and in Manhattan it surpassed $5,000 in June of last year.6 While strides have been made in recent years toward improving rental subsidies and developing more supportive and affordable housing, domestic violence survivors continue to be excluded from critical housing resources. This is most stark in the lack of access to both the city-funded supportive housing and city’s homeless set-aside units.
New Destiny urges Mayor Adams to implement two budget-neutral, administrative modifications to provide survivors more equitable access to housing resources:
- Open NYC 15/15 supportive housing to domestic violence survivors
- Expand access to homeless set-asides to survivors in the HRA domestic violence shelter system
Similarly, we call on the Council and the Mayor to fund the newly established housing stability program for survivors of domestic violence at $6 million in FY 2024, as well as to quickly address the staffing issues at the Department of Social Services.
Unlike New York State supportive housing programs, the city supportive housing initiative, NYC 15/15, does not include domestic violence survivors as an eligible population. For survivors to qualify for city-funded supportive housing, they must meet the “chronicity” requirement, which means they must have a lengthy stay in DHS shelter and a diagnosed disability, such as serious mental illness or substance use disorder. This effectively keeps survivors out of this important housing resource. The 180 days survivors may spend in HRA emergency domestic violence shelter are not counted toward the DHS length of stay and, while research shows that domestic violence causes a myriad of negative health outcomes, survivors rarely divulge a diagnosis for fear of losing custody of their children to their abuser. At least half of survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression;7 moreover, survivors can sustain head trauma more often than football players, but they are rarely diagnosed.8 Permanent, affordable, supportive housing is a lifeline for domestic violence survivors who need housing and some level of support to attain and maintain stability. New Destiny urges the city administration to open its supportive housing program to domestic violence survivors and their families, who are among the most vulnerable.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) creates a critical pipeline from shelter to permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers by requiring most developers who receive funding to set aside at least 15% of their apartments for individuals and families in shelter. These units are commonly referred to as HPD homeless set-asides. In FY 22, HPD moved 1,600 homeless households into newly constructed units and more than 600 into re-rental apartments, none of which were made available to survivors living in the HRA domestic violence shelter system.9 Despite committing “to even the playing field for all New Yorkers” in the Housing Our Neighbors Blueprint in April 2022, the Adams administration continues to only allow individuals and families in the DHS shelter system access to these units, with rare exception. By expanding access to homeless set-asides, the city would not only make this valuable housing resource more equitable, but would likely fill vacancies more quickly, leading to significant potential cost-savings. New Destiny urges the city administration to allow survivors in HRA domestic violence shelter equal access to this housing.
We are grateful to Speaker Adams, Council Member Cabán, and members of the Council for passing, and to Mayor Adams for swiftly signing, Intro 153-A into law, which creates a housing stability program for domestic and gender-based violence survivors that provides low-barrier grants and connection to supportive services, with the goal of helping them maintain housing. New Destiny witnesses the beneficial impact of microgrants every day. Our rapid re-housing program, HousingLink, receives small federal service funding that can be used to cover most emergency needs, such as utility arrears, moving costs, and healthcare.
Additionally, a privately funded microgrant pilot, which was overseen by the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence and administered by Sanctuary for Families, further demonstrated that flexible funding can significantly improve survivors’ financial situation, help them remain housed, and foster financial stability.10 Implemented in 2020, the pilot also showed that there is high demand for low-barrier financial support among survivors of domestic violence in New York City. The half a million dollars in funding was quickly depleted and forced the program to cease receiving applications in less than 2 months. For some survivors, an immediate, but otherwise manageable, financial or health crisis can quickly snowball into a catastrophe causing homelessness. This newly created housing stability program has the potential to be a lifesaver for survivors, especially for non-citizen New Yorkers; help bridge the gap for existing federally funded initiatives that do not cover essential items, like furniture or groceries; and prevent homelessness and shelter recidivism for a fraction of the cost of shelter and re-housing efforts. New Destiny urges the Mayor and the City Council to fund the Housing Stability program at $6 million dollars.
Comprising HRA and DHS, the Department of Social Services (DSS) oversees numerous critical functions to support New Yorkers, such as administering cash benefits and other major public assistance programs. Yet, DSS continues to struggle with severe staffing shortages. According to the Comptroller’s report, DSS had a vacancy rate of 20% as of October 2022.11 Limited capacity at HRA has significantly delayed check processing times and moves for rent subsidy recipients. This does not only prolong shelter stays unnecessarily, but it also tarnishes the credibility of rental assistance programs among property owners, property managers, and real estate agents. We urge the administration to ensure that DSS receives the resources and support necessary to rapidly fill vacancies.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony. New Destiny looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the Council. We welcome any questions you may have.
Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Director of Policy and Communications at New Destiny Housing
gsrequena [at] newdestinyhousing . org
1 Silkowski, A. (2019). Housing Survivors: How New York City Can Increase Housing Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence. New York, NY: Comptroller Bureau of Policy and Research Bureau of Budget. Retrieved from: https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Housing_Survivors_102119.pdf
2 NYC Department of Social Services (2022). Reasons for Eligibility for Families with Children for Department of Homeless Services Shelter.
3 NYC Department of Social Services (2022). 2021 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters.
4 Aurand, A., Clarke, M., Emmanuel, D., Foley, E., Rafi, I., & Yentel, D. (2022). Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing. National Low Income Housing Coalition. Retrieved from https://nlihc.org/oor
5 New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. (2022). 2021 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey Selected Initial Findings. Retrieved from https://www.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/services/2021-nychvs-selected-initial-findings.pdf
6 Brand, D., Faye, M., Mariam, Q., Lozano-Velez, M., Rahman, N., Soto, T., & Jimenez, J. (2022, September 13). It’s Not Just Manhattan: Rents Are Still Rising Across NYC. City Limits. Retrieved from https://citylimits.org/2022/09/13/its-not-just-manhattan-rents-are-still-rising-across-nyc
7 Nathanson, A. M., Shorey, R. C., Tirone, V., & Rhatigan, D. L. (2012). The Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders in a Community Sample of Female Victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Partner abuse, 3(1), 59–75. https://doi.org/10.1891/1946-65184.108.40.206
8 Hillstrom, C. (2022, March 1). ‘The Hidden Epidemic of Brain Injuries From Domestic Violence.’ The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/01/magazine/brain-trauma-domestic-violence.html
9 New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations. (2022). Mayor’s Management Report 2022. Retrieved from https://www.nyc.gov/site/operations/performance/mmr.page
10 Holmes, K. (2021). Evaluation Summary Report: Emergency Financial Relief Microgrants Program for Survivors of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. Retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/Emergency-Financial-Relief-Microgrants-Program-Evaluation-Summary-Report.pdf
11 Callahan, R. (2022). Title Vacant Addressing Critical Vacancies in NYC Government Agencies. New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. Retrieved from https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Title-Vacant-Addressing-Critical-Vacancies-in-NYC-Government-Agencies.pdf