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Testimony of Scott Andrew Hutchins General Welfare Committee Budget Hearing, March 27, 2018

May 14, 2018

My name is Scott Andrew Hutchins, and I have been living in the New York City shelter system since May 25, 2012. I spent much of 2011 in housing court, unemployed with a physical challenge and unable to pay my rent. The city refused to help me stay in my $1,075.18 apartment as long as I was not in a job that paid enough to pay the rent going forward. But now that I am in the shelter system, they are willing to pay around $1,300-$2,000 more than that, plus $300 a month on a storage unit, plus restricted SNAP benefits, so that I can have a wiry cot wrapped in vinyl and a locker in a room full of other men, and eat food that has had a negative impact on my health, in what seems to be for the sake of either punishment or cronyism.

Our report shows that the city’s spending on shelters is unsustainable at over $2 million per day. The cost to build permanent housing for every homeless person will be exceeded by shelter spending in only seven years. It therefore cannot be reasonably argued that it is too expensive to house every homeless person rather than put them in shelters, it is simply an issue of political will.

We learned in our research that many shelter executives are raking in six-figure incomes while leaving homeless people in squalor. This suggests either a system of cronyism or a lack of oversight in how shelter money is spent. The shelters within the DHS system are poorly regulated, inconsistent in character, and have very little oversight. In addition, shelters know weeks in advance when inspections that are supposedly a surprise are coming. The shelters should be required to support their spending with outcomes, and the city should have corrective actions for shelters that do not meet expectations.

Unlike the federal money that goes into family shelters, the adult shelters and adult family shelters are 82% and 69%, respectively, funded with city money, which is fungible, and can therefore be spent on housing. This money should be reapportioned into spending on housing for people making 10, 15, 20, and 30% of area median income. The voucher program should be revamped into a universal program with specific training for those in housing specialist positions to actually help get people into housing.

As homeless people, we found the solutions to homelessness in the city’s own data. We would like to see the funds used to help us in a way that helps us rather than keeps us in second class housing for years at a time.

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