By Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Senior Policy Analyst at New Destiny Housing
Thank you, Chairperson Dromm and members of the City Council Committee on Finance, for the opportunity to submit written testimony at this Executive Budget Hearing for Fiscal Year 2022.
New Destiny Housing is a 27-year-old nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness. We develop new affordable housing with voluntary on-site services and through our rapid rehousing program, HousingLink, we connect survivors of domestic violence with safe, permanent housing in New York City.
FAMILY HOMELESSNESS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Nearly 80,000 individuals experienced homelessness in New York City on a single night in January 2020, and the majority of them were families with children.1 For far too long, domestic violence has been the leading driver of family homelessness in the five boroughs. City data indicates that 41 percent of families entering the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter identified domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness.2 This is in addition to the more than 9,500 survivors who enter the separate Human Resources Administration (HRA) domestic violence (DV) shelters annually, the largest DV shelter system in the country.3
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only revealed our City’s deep inequities, it has exacerbated the predicament of survivors. The domestic violence resource website, NYC Hope, saw a 110 percent increase in traffic when stay-at-home orders were imposed.4 While the City has reported fewer families with children in shelter during the pandemic, there has been a 17.2 percentage increase in entries in DV shelter from the DHS family intake center, suggesting that more families with children are entering the shelter system due to abuse.5
THE CYCLE OF HOMELESSNESS AMONG SURVIVORS
Despite the scale of the crisis, affordable housing options are not equitably accessible to DV survivors and their children. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Homeless Set-Asides, the Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program, and NYC 15/15, to name a few, are all unavailable to residents of domestic violence shelters. This exclusion of survivors from valuable housing programs has contributed to their inability to attain safe, permanent housing and thus prolonging their shelter stay.
City data reveals that survivors are actually more likely to transfer from DV emergency shelter to another shelter rather than moving to permanent housing. The Department of Social Services’ 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters shows that 53 percent of the 2,341 families with children that exited the HRA DV emergency shelter were transferred to other shelters, upon reaching the State-set 90-day limit.6 That is 1,241 families with minors that left shelter for shelter. This includes 352 families who were discharged to DV Tier II shelters, as well as 889 families that went to DHS shelter (either streamlined by HRA or administratively discharged and eventually went to DHS on their own).
The data is even more staggering when considering the percentage of families that exited DV emergency shelter for permanent housing: a mere 6 percent in 2020.7 Only 57 of these families moved to an apartment with a rental subsidy, like CityFHEPS. The City spent well over $2 billion in shelter operations in Fiscal Year 2020, most of which funded family shelter operations.8 Shelter exit data and shelter rising costs underscore the urgent need for the City to implement solutions that will effectively address the cycle of homelessness.
NEW DESTINY’S RECOMMENDATIONS
It is time for the City Council and the Mayor to take long overdue steps to give domestic violence survivors equal access to housing and break this cycle of homelessness for survivors and their children. New Destiny strongly recommends that Intro 146-B is passed and signed into law immediately, with sufficient funds added to the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Beyond the budget, we ask that the City Council introduces legislation this year to allow HRA shelter residents equal access to HPD homeless set-aside units and that creates one daily census that counts all homeless New Yorkers.
For more information on our policy priorities to address homelessness among domestic violence survivors in New York City, please refer to our 2021 Policy Platform available on our website.
I also urge you to support the Family Homelessness Coalition’s priorities, based on the needs identified by a broad-based coalition of shelter and housing providers, advocates, and other nonprofits helping homeless families in NYC.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony. I welcome any questions.
Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Senior Policy Analyst
1 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, 2021, page 38.
2 NYC Comptroller, Housing Survivors: How New York City Can Increase Housing Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence, 2019, page 11.
3 NYC Department of Social Services, 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters, page 3.
4 Safe Horizon, Visits to New York City’s Domestic Violence Website Surged Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, https://www.safehorizon.org/safe-horizon-in-the-news/nyc-domestic-violence-website-visits-coronavirus-pandemic/
5 NYC Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, January 2021, page 156.
6 NYC Department of Social Services, 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters, page 3.
8 NYC Comptroller FY 2022 Agency Watch List, Homeless Services Provider Agencies, March 2021, page 2.