NYC now charges rent at homeless shelters

(RAW STORY)   Nine months after homeless families won the right to shelter in New York City, the city is having the last laugh.

According to a New York Times article, “The Bloomberg administration has quietly begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters but have income from jobs.”

The new policy is based on a 1997 state law that was not enforced until last week, when shelter operators across the city began requiring residents to pay a certain portion of their income. The amount varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but should not exceed 50 percent of a family’s income, a state official said.

Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

“It’s not right,” said Ms. Dacosta, a single mother of a 2-year-old who said she spends nearly $100 a week on child care. “I pay my baby sitter, I buy diapers, and I’m trying to save money so I can get out of here. I don’t want to be in the shelter forever.”

The paper notes, “Anthony Farmer, a spokesman for the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, said the new policy will eventually affect about 2,000 of the more than 9,000 families in New York City shelters.”

Homeless advocates are livid about the new policy.

“They are taking money from them that could otherwise be used to help themselves get out of the shelter system,” Arnold S. Cohen, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for the Homeless, told the Times. “We’re dealing with the poorest people, the people who are the most in need, and we’re asking them to pay for a shelter of last resort. As a city and a state that has a history of social and economic justice, I think we can do better than that.”

Before last year’s court victory, “they and their children had to sleep on the streets, in subway stations, parks, laundromats and all-night fast food restaurants,” the Gotham Gazette reported.

The New York Daily News recently noted that “city officials ordered 24 local churches to stop providing beds to homeless people. With temperatures well below freezing, the churches must obey a rule requiring faith-based shelters to be open at least five days a week or not at all.”

“The number of homeless families reached a 25-year high in November, with 1,343 homeless families entering the city’s shelter system during that month alone, according to the Coalition for the Homeless,” the Daily News reported.

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