Since their introduction in 2004, Picture the Homeless fought to fix Bloomberg’s flawed rental subsidies for homeless people. In 2007, the Administration bowed to pressure and abandoned the most problematic of these subsidies, “Housing Stability Plus” – only to replace it with another bad program that keeps homeless people in substandard, overpriced apartments. The “Advantage” programs are administered jointly by the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), leading to bureaucratic ineptitude that constantly subjects subsidy recipients to the risk of eviction. DHS refused to acknowledge the plan’s failures, and the Mayor continued to get good press for his homeless policies, so our members decided to prove them wrong.
Working with graduate students in urban planning, they developed a comprehensive survey to document the problems people have faced as a result of these subsidies. Then they took to the streets and surveyed more than 400 homeless and formerly homeless people, coming up with some truly staggering evidence – for example, 70% of people who received a housing subsidy had been to housing court because of problems with that subsidy, and 41% had been in rent arrears due to the city’s failure to pay its portion of the rent! In 2009, we released the results of these surveys in the groundbreaking report