For those without a home, homelessness is a catastrophe. Now it’s become a calamity for cities and communities that find themselves dealing with those who are homeless.
New York City’s Mayor Bill Blasio is dealing with the tragedy in a way unique to no one else in no other city. He’s shipping, or sending New York City’s homeless population, to other cities and states — secretly.
Desperate to find new living spaces for its shelter population of about 60,000, the top destinations of NYC’s homeless were Florida, Puerto Rico and North Carolina, said a September 2017 New York Post story.
Maintaining the program is not illegal because it’s voluntary, NYC Mayoral spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg, said, “This is not a new program. For decades, the city has helped homeless families who find affordable housing and employment outside of the city relocate. We hope these communities will welcome these families as they work to get back on their feet.”
To entice the city’s homeless to move, NYC’s Department of Homeless Services offered them a full year’s rent. To be eligible for Project Reconnect, homeless residents in the city’s shelters had to have been in the city’s homeless system for at least three months and had to have a source of income (but no amount was listed). Then they could qualify for 12 months of rent paid up-front virtually anywhere, together with travel expenses.
“Any American, including any New Yorker experiencing homelessness, has the right to seek housing where they can afford it and employment where they can find it,” said DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn.
An Oct. 26, 2019, Post story said NYC had sent homeless families to 373 cities across the country with a full year of rent in their pockets “as part of Mayor Blasio’s ‘Special One-Time Assistance Program.’” Usually, said the story, “the receiving city knows nothing about it.”
Saying NYC taxpayers had spent $89 million on rent alone since the program’s August 2017 inception to export 5,074 homeless families — 12,482 individuals — to places as close as Newark and as far as the South Pacific, the Post said families were sent to 32 states and Puerto Rico.
“The city also paid travel expenses, through a separate taxpayer funded program called Project Reconnect, but would not divulge how much it spent,” said the story.
The city’s DHS defends the stratospheric costs, the story continued, “saying it actually saves the city on shelter funding — which amounts to about $41,000 annually per family, as compared to the average yearly rent of $17,563 to house families elsewhere. … About 56% of the families move out-of-state, costing the city an average of $15,600 in annual rent.”
North Carolina cities that have apparently unknowingly received some of NYC’s homeless population are Raleigh and Durham. Also likely to have received of the NYC homeless are Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Fayetteville.
In upper New York state, Broome County welfare officials found out about the families when they came into the Social Services office to apply for other benefits, but not rental subsidies. Broom County officials were told NYC had already taken care of their rent.
The Post story quoted the surprise of officials in locations where NYC’s homeless had been sent: Michael Yenni, president of Jefferson Parish, La., where homeless were sent to Metairie, La.; Mayor Samuel Newson of Willacoochee, Ga.; Mayor Michelle Tait of Harrisville, Utah; Mayor Tony Vauss of Irvington, N.J., and Newark, N.J., spokesman Mark DiIonno.
In New York, the state Senate is investigating the de Blasio’s administration’s exporting of New York City’s homeless families to other parts of the state. “Bill de Blasio is putting homeless New Yorkers on busses, tossing them some rent money and sending them elsewhere … for someone else to take care of,” said New York State Sen. Fred Akshar, who represents Binghamton and Broome County. “The people of the Southern tier and Broome County support and take care of their own in good times and bad. We don’t ship our struggling neighbors elsewhere for others to deal with and call ourselves progressives.”
But they are dealing with New York Mayor de Blasio, who until a month or two ago was among those running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Were he to have received his party’s nomination and be elected president is too unimaginable to ponder. Thankfully, Democrats didn’t give him any support at all. Now if only his city’s homeless had a voice ….