The Partnership’s Testimony on Funding Prevention Services in NYC
New York City Council Finance Committee Budget Hearing
May 23, 2019
By Mercedes Jennings, The Partnership for the Homeless
Good Afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Mercedes Jennings, and I have worked for The Partnership for 4 ½ years. The Partnership is a nonprofit that strives to eliminate the root causes of homelessness through solution oriented programs including housing placement, eviction prevention, and after care services. Over the past 37 years that the Partnership has been in operation we have evolved our thinking to assert that homelessness is solvable through a single yet effective means—prevention. The Partnership supports House our Future NY, Housing Justice for All, the Stop Source of Income Discrimination (SID) campaigns; as well as, the 100 Bridging the Gap Social Workers and placing an education support center at PATH.
The Partnership defines homelessness as an economic circumstance and a housing affordability issue that continues to negatively affect families. Currently, the vast majority of the population in the shelter system are families; making the largest group residing in shelter children. Children miss an average of 10 school days from the moment their family is evicted from housing to being found eligible for shelter placement by PATH. As DOE staff are aware, 10 consecutive or consistent missed school days will target their attendance as a justification to having a child repeat a grade. Suffering from homelessness should not be the reason children continue to be disconnected from their schools.
The Partnership applauds the administration’s efforts to bridge the gaps that living in homelessness had created for children across the city; baselined the funding for social workers to remain in schools with higher concentrations of students affected by homelessness; and increasing the number of DOE Staff at PATH. However, all the efforts that the city has put forth thus far would be in vain if the root problem; keeping people in their homes, isn’t also addressed. For families that are entering PATH, the Partnership supports the position of having newly constructed shelters placed in the neighborhoods that children were evicted from. This solution limits the number and severity of school disruptions that typically impact families transitioning through homelessness.
Additionally, in order to keep children in school we must first keep children in housing. Preventing eviction is not only cost efficient, but prevents homelessness today and tomorrow.
The most efficient way to ensure children’s access to education is for the administration to make a robust investment into financial assistance services. The Partnership has already met with multiple council members and will continue to do so in order to advance this effort. We ask the administration for the 2020FY to focus on investing more funding into eviction prevention work. This policy focus will keep children stable so that they can stay in school, thus preventing the likelihood of future homelessness.