The Human Right to Housing

Group of protesters taking a picture with their posters.

On December 8, 2014, a press conference was held on the steps of City Hall on behalf of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing.   Undeterred by the cold, housing advocates, politicians, and formerly homeless individuals gathered on the steps to have their voices heard and to show support while Council Member Steve Levin introduced a resolution to urge the Mayor and Governor to sign a new NY/NY agreement that would create additional units of supportive housing over the next ten years.  To date, both men have stated that they would support a NY/NY IV, but neither has taken the next step to sign an agreement.

Why do we need additional units of supportive housing?

NYC homelessness is at a record high and Goddard Riverside Community Center believes that housing is a human right.  It is something that each New Yorker deserves access to. The number one cause of homelessness is not unemployment, it is not underlying substance abuse issues, nor is it mental health issues amongst those who are homeless. The number one cause of homelessness in our city, and indeed our nation, is a lack of affordable housing.

NY/NY III, the 2005 city-state agreement that provided 9,000 units of supportive housing over ten years, expires next year.  A new initiative, NY/NY IV, is necessary to ensure that the creation of supportive housing does not stop.  Demand has certainly not stopped.  According to the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing, for every six New Yorkers hoping (and eligible) to get a home where he or she can have a stable place to rest, to shower, to prepare a meal for his family, only one will be granted access to that home.   While this number is shamefully high, it will only continue to rise if a new agreement to build additional units of supportive housing is not signed soon.

For those more swayed by economic rather than social costs, supportive housing has been proven to be a cost saving measure at a time when city and state budgets are already tight. Homeless individuals utilize emergency services, hospitals, and the criminal justice system at higher rates than those who are not homeless. When the cost of using the shelter system is also factored in, the Campaign 4 NY/NY cites that placing an individual in supportive housing saves over $10,000 per year. By this logic, place ten people in supportive housing and save over $100,000.  This model has also proven to be a sustainable one that will continue to save the city and state money as people remain housed. Of all of the clients placed into permanent housing through Goddard Riverside and the Manhattan Outreach Consortium in 2013, a remarkable 92% remain housed after one year.

As the adage goes, the measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.  We’ve got some work to do.

– Allison McCullough, Program Director
Goddard Riverside Manhattan Outreach Consortium (MOC)