May 3, 2022
Thank you, Deputy Speaker Ayala and members of the City Council General Welfare Committee for the opportunity to submit written testimony on behalf of New Destiny Housing.
Founded in 1994, New Destiny is a nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of violence for low-income families and individuals experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. We build and manage supportive, affordable housing and through our rapid rehousing program, HousingLink, we connect survivors of domestic violence with safe, permanent housing in New York City. New Destiny also advocates for housing resources for domestic violence survivors and their families. We invite you to read our 2022 NYC Policy Priorities.
New Destiny is a co-convener of the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC), a broad group of organizations and New Yorkers with lived experience committed to tackling homelessness among families in our city.
We commend Deputy Speaker Ayala and the Committee members for their demonstrated commitment to improving the lives of New York’s most vulnerable individuals by conducting this oversight hearing. New Destiny supports all three bills on today’s agenda, which will help increase transparency and accountability on shelter, services, and housing resources.
New Destiny supports Intro 211, which would require the Mayor’s Office of Operations to report on the exits from all city shelter systems, as well as the financings, starts and completions of permanent housing for those exiting temporary housing. By creating a transparent, centralized mechanism that tracks all shelter exits, as well as the status of housing units, the city will be one step closer to implementing processes that allow for interagency collaboration and meeting the coordinated entry requirement mandated by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Capturing comprehensive exit data will enable the city to better monitor how its affordable housing stock and resources are used to house New York’s most vulnerable, track recidivism trends, and ensure equitable access among residents of all five shelter systems.
It is long overdue for the City to create one combined census that shows the true scope of homelessness. We simply cannot solve a problem that we fail to measure correctly. New Destiny supports Intro 212, which would require the administration to centralize shelter census data and the Mayor’s Office of Operations to make these reports available on their website in a machine-readable format.
While Local Law 37 of 2011 requires the four City agencies that run the five shelter systems to produce monthly reports on emergency housing utilization, there is a significant lack of uniformity in the methodology, with some agencies reporting unique individuals and others a nightly average, as well as lack of compliance with the frequency of the reporting. These inconsistencies make it impossible to combine the various reports into one census count of all New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. As a result, agency and legislative leaders, the press, and advocates inevitably focus attention, policy solutions, and housing resources solely on individuals and families residing in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter, the largest, most visible system, discounting the thousands of New Yorkers living in other shelters, including domestic violence survivors and youth. As an example, the New York Times magazine recently published a lengthy article on former Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner, Steve Banks. Though the article’s focus was entirely on homelessness in New York City, there was not a single mention of the thousands of adults and children in DSS Human Resource Administration (HRA) domestic violence shelter.
New Destiny applauds Deputy Speaker Ayala for introducing bills that will significantly improve reporting, increase accountability, inform the administration on service gaps, and most critically create parity in resources among the systems This is undoubtedly a big opportunity for the Adams administration to address inefficiencies and streamline processes.
In collaboration with other organizations, we have proposed a series of recommendations to strengthen the language of the bills. New Destiny respectfully encourages the Council to:
- Mandate a consistent methodology for all four city agencies to report shelter census
- Revise the definition of HRA domestic violence shelters to include domestic violence emergency beds and domestic violence Tier II shelters
- Include provisions to track and report shelter to shelter exits (such as households that move from HRA domestic violence shelter to DHS)
- Track and report the same outcomes in the Mayor’s Management Report
- Reflect the same revisions to Local Law 37 of 2011 on both bills or consider combining Intros 211 and 212 into a single legislation
We would also like to express our support for the pre-considered legislation T2022-1077, which would require DHS and HRA to track and report data regarding rental assistance programs, including outcomes of CityFHEPS and any future rental assistance program created for New York City residents. If enacted, this bill would further enhance reporting requirements and help identify opportunities for the continued improvement of programs and services.
Lastly, New Destiny would like to thank the Council for their preliminary budget response, which calls for significant investments, including the critical allocation of $4 billion per year to fund a comprehensive affordable housing plan. The number one solution to homelessness is affordable, permanent housing.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit written testimony and look forward to continuing to work together. We welcome any questions you may have.
Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Senior Policy Analyst at New Destiny Housing
gsrequena [at] newdestinyhousing.org