As New York City confronts the social and economic damage of the COVID-19 crisis, months of lost employment and reduced wages will have a devastating impact on homeless and other low-income families. Unless immediate action is taken, the City’s existing homelessness crisis could get much worse: over 325,000 of New York City’s lowest-income households – almost one million people – are vulnerable to severe income and housing loss caused by COVID-19. Without emergency action and a multi-year plan that dovetails with the City’s recovery efforts, many will find themselves unable to afford rent and needing to turn to an already over-burdened homeless services system.
To jumpstart the conversation, Win, the City’s largest provider of shelter and support services for homeless mothers and their children, today announced a housing stability and recovery plan, “The Aftermath Plan: Responding to Homelessness in the Wake of COVID-19.”
This comprehensive plan details immediate steps to address the increase in housing instability that so many will face as New York City’s most vulnerable families lose employment and income. The plan includes five policy pillars:
- Establish a new Stay-at-Home Emergency Rental Assistance Voucher to help low-income renters stay in their homes.
- Create NYC Rapid Rehousing to help families avoid shelter by providing temporary accommodations (30 to 60 days) in apartment-style student housing and hotels and an enhanced rental assistance voucher to help families quickly find a new home.
- Convert vacant hotels to family shelters and provide social services.
- Make common-sense adjustments to the CityFHEPS rental voucher so the program widens the door out of shelter now.
- Redouble efforts to create and preserve deeply affordable housing.
“Family homelessness and the COVID-19 crisis will be defining issues for life in New York for the next several years,” said Christine C. Quinn, President and CEO of Win. “We can’t slip backward. We have to get this right. Because before COVID-19 struck, New York City was already battling twin crises of affordability and homelessness. Now, the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic threatens to push thousands more lower-income New Yorkers further into poverty and closer to homelessness.
Without immediate and long-term action at every level of government, families already struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet will be forced out of their homes and into shelter. It is our moral and financial imperative to enact proven policies and interventions to help families keep their homes, or exit shelter more quickly. Anything less will lead to catastrophe. Mayor de Blasio must commit to funding this plan as part of the City’s long-term recovery effort.”
The health and economic devastation of COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the already-vulnerable, and Win is seeing the impact in its own shelters: 25 percent of working moms at Win have lost their jobs and many more have seen hours and shifts cut, lessening already-fragile income.
Job losses in New York State are concentrated in service industries that disproportionately rely on low-paid workers, as well as women and people of color. Early estimates show New York State losing 1.2 million jobs. Nearly two-thirds of all jobs lost pay salaries of $40,000 per year or less. Just ten percent of job losses were positions paying more than $100,000 per year.
However, low-income families are the least able to weather this financial storm. In 2019, 70 percent of low-income renters had less than $1,000 in savings. Win families are extremely low-income, with an average income of about $1,581/month. Prior to the pandemic over half (about 53%) of Win moms were employed, and all were working in low-wage and/or precarious employment that is especially vulnerable to loss as a result of the pandemic. Over 100 of these workers have already lost their jobs.
Get the best Harlem news in your inbox here.
Failure to create these programs will exact an extraordinary human toll, and the monetary cost of business as usual will be exorbitant. If half of vulnerable households end up losing their housing, the City could spend over $7 billion per year to house them in shelter. Win estimates that the cost of paying for emergency voucher and rapid rehousing programs outlined in the Aftermath Plan would prevent thousands from entering shelter and would cost billions less than providing shelter for those same households.
Since 1983, Win has been transforming the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing the housing, programs and services they need to succeed on their own. With more than 1,200 units of transitional housing providing shelter for more than 4,700 people every night, Win focuses on solutions for the many causes of homelessness by helping women improve their job skills, life skills, personal health and more.
Win’s children’s services include childcare, after school programs, and Camp Win, a summer day camp program. Win also provides permanent supportive housing offering dedicated, long-term support to mothers with additional needs. Win transforms the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing a holistic solution of safe housing, critical services and programs they need to succeed on their own — so the women can regain their independence and their children can look forward to a brighter future.
photo credit: By Walter Rutledge.