Update Digest on New NYS, Local Homeless Policies

Given how many homeless individuals have mental health conditions, NYAPRS is continuing to keep a close focus on the impact of Governor Cuomo’s executive order. State and local policy changes will bring critically needed improvements in the lives of homeless New Yorkers. At the same time, NYAPRS is very concerned that localities will feel pressured to consider an individual’s resistance to going to a shelter as a sign of mental incompetence and to take them involuntarily for evaluation at a local hospital. We continue to maintain that properly trained outreach and police teams should be able to respond to most individuals’ needs without such coercion. We will be talking to NYS and NYC officials about those concerns. Here’s what we’ve learned in the last few days.

 

Increased Shelter Oversight, Hours

  • Comments from Governor Cuomo suggested that he might have the state’s Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance to increase its oversight over local shelters.  He told Politico NY that “if shelters are not up to code, then we are going to be very diligent in our inspection and management of the existing shelter system. And I’m going to lay out that program in (next Wednesday’s) State of the State."
  • NYC Mayor de Blasio will build on the efforts of the Shelter Repair Squad, the City’s first ever program to inspect and repair shelters.  He will also fund a $2 million family shelter complaint hotline, designate the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless to begin monitoring family shelter conditions and his team will meet with nonprofit shelter providers to get a detailed picture of their longer-term shelter improvement and maintenance needs.
  • Buffalo and Albany officials said that they would raise their so-called Code Blue thresholds—where local governments step up efforts to bring the homeless off the street—from as low as 10 degrees to 32 degrees.
  • Albany County Mayor Kathy Sheehan indicated she was re-evaluating hours for shelters, some of which are largely closed during the day with only minimal staff.

 

Requiring Homeless Individuals to get Mental Health Evaluation

  • Buffalo homeless provider said that the Cuomo Administration “assured me their intent was not to forcibly place people in shelters, but if people were refusing shelter, there would be some sort of psychiatric evaluation to see if they’re in imminent danger of basically freezing to death.”
  • Use of competency standards: “If someone is unwilling to go to shelter, the order will encourage local governments” to take them involuntarily to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation “to intervene against a person’s wishes when he or she is at imminent risk of danger or death and considered mentally incompetent.”
  • Again, NYAPRS is very concerned that localities will feel pressured to consider an individual’s resistance to going to a shelter as a sign of mental incompetence and to take them involuntarily for evaluation at a local hospital. We continue to maintain that properly trained outreach and police teams should be able to respond to most individuals’ needs without such coercion. We will be talking to NYS and NYC officials about those concerns.

 

More Housing?

…”According to Cuomo, his strategy can only work if homeless people have somewhere decent they are willing to go, like welcoming homeless shelters and permanent supportive housing, of the sort de Blasio has funded but Cuomo has yet to….

Jamie Rubin, commissioner of the state’s Office of Homes and Community Renewal, told some advocates at one of the meetings in Cuomo’s Midtown office that capital funding to create some new housing would indeed be part of whatever new plan Cuomo announces next week.”

 

Greater NYC Hospital Use

  • Homeless individuals deemed to need more care or a mental health evaluation will be taken to Metro, Woodhull, Queens and North Bronx public hospitals.
  • Cuomo's administration has apparently also reached out to some private hospitals around the city to ask whether they had additional capacity.
  • Cuomo may be planning to use state properties at state-operated former psychiatric facilities to open more smaller safe-haven shelter sites that don't use curfews or require clients to enter drug or alcohol treatment programs like other larger shelters.

 

Sources

 

Cuomo Explains His New Homeless Policy, Hints At More To Come

By Dana Rubinstein And Laura Nahmias  Politico New York  January 4, 2016 http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586782/cuomo-explains-his-new-homeless-policy-hints-more-come

 

After Cuomo Order, City Officials Confer To Clarify Homeless Policy

By Laura Nahmias and Dana Rubinstein  Politico New York  January 6, 2016

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586782/cuomo-explains-his-new-homeless-policy-hints-more-come

 

Cuomo’s Homeless Order Gets Mixed Reviews from Cities Across State

By Joseph De Avila And  Corinne Ramey  Wall Street Journal  January 6, 2016

http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomos-homeless-order-gets-mixed-reviews-from-cities-across-state-1452046801

 

Bill de Blasio To Launch Plan To Fix Homeless Shelters

By Greg B. Smith New York Daily News  January 6, 2016

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/de-blasio-launch-plan-fix-homeless-shelters-article-1.2486763