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Testimony Before the New York City Human Resources Administration on the Proposed Rule for Vouchers, August 21, 2018

August 23, 2018

My name is Scott Andrew Hutchins, and I am a six-year resident of the New York City Department of Homeless Services system. I am medically limited to a desk job due to issues in my lower back and limbs, and my CUNY master’s degree has not been enticing to employers. The past two jobs I have had have been temporary, and yet I have been expected to leave the shelter on them based solely on the fact that they lasted longer than expected. Both ended suddenly, and both were before March 2018, when the client contribution for a mere room was 30% of income, the same as for an apartment.

From August 2015 to June 2016, I was employed as a temp in the exams unit at MTA making $12.60 an hour. On Thursday, June 2, 2016, a number of us were taken individually into a conference room and told that tomorrow would be our last day. The project to which they had assigned us was deemed not worth finishing, and they believed they were overstaffed. At least the most recent of us got an accurate estimate of three months for the assignment. My first LINC voucher came the following week, and my case managers actually expected me to use it, despite my already low income being replaced with unemployment insurance, paying less than half of what I was receiving when working.

With the Obama-era unemployment insurance extensions long gone, I accepted an assignment paying even less—the soon to be minimum wage of $11 an hour—in late October 2016. This assignment was expected to last only a few weeks, but when the project started getting three-week extensions every few weeks, my case managers started to interpret that the job would become permanent no matter how much I explained that when the project reached a quorum of proxy votes, the assignment would be over. The final extension was for April 18, 2017. On April 10, about 45 minutes into the workday, they announced that the quorum had been reached, and nearly seventy of us were told to clock out, laid off permanently. While my case managers harassed me for not using my LINC voucher for a room, there is no way I would consider giving up my stored property to rent a room that would never hold the majority of it, particularly with the job ready to evaporate at any time. Had I been able to successfully use the LINC voucher, I would have both lost everything I own and been sent back to housing court. I do not understand why anyone would act incredulous that I would not elect to do this. What could be more stressful than losing all one owns and going back to housing court so soon after getting out of the shelter system? Oh yeah, I lost my mother during that time, too.

The system is designed to fail. By lasting only five years, and expecting formerly homeless people to get a 70% raise over the course of that time to make up for the progressively reduced subsidy each year, nearly everyone in the program would cycle back into the shelter system, but not until Mayor DeBlasio had been term limited out. I think most New Yorkers would berate you in town halls if you tried to claim that 70% raises over five years is normal. With the average annual raise at 3% per year, it is totally unrealistic to expect low income subsidized tenants’ income to go up 70% in five years, yet you will force them to pay 70% more toward rent in the course of five years.

Even with the changes from LINC to CityFHEPS, the income levels and expectations are still far from realistic, and do nothing for someone whose income is unsteady as mine. I am a freelance writer, currently on a W-2 to a remote employer whose estimate of $1,000 a month in income from working has yet to be reached. A retaliatory transfer from a hotel shelter with WiFi to an armory shelter near a library with brief hours and no air conditioning had a direct impact in reducing my ability to do my job, as did financial issues on my employer’s end.

I implore the city to come up with more realistic solutions for ending the housing crisis.

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5 Comments
  1. Poor guy with your sob story. This is a public forum so I won’t write a lot…. I’ll just say it’s not even true.

  2. Scotty? What happened to you on Twitter? I look you up and find you got suspended. It made me very sad to say the least.

    • They are silencing third party voices. Both my personal and my campaign Twitter are now suspended. The Green Party referred me to an attorney who gave me a vacation autorespond.

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