Budget Cuts Hurt Tenants Group

Budget cuts hurt tenants group
NOVEMBER 29, 2010
The Journal News

Re “Closing two shelters will not harm efforts to help homeless,” Nov. 20 Community View

Karl Bertrand’s above Community View is correct. He is right that the “progressive agenda…is to move away from shelters…by concentrating resources on 1) preventing evictions, and 2) rapidly rehousing people….” However, when he says that the county has achieved homelessness reduction by investing money in eviction prevention, he is wrong! The county has actually significantly reduced eviction prevention efforts. One such glaring example is Mount Vernon United Tenants, one of, if not the most effective eviction prevention agencies in the county. MVUT was recently completely defunded (after being funded for more than 20 years) due to the county’s austerity budget! The small annual grant MVUT received, $55,000 to $ 60,000, helped stop over 150 evictions every year! You can do the math — when it costs $3,000 to $4,000 monthly to shelter people. This is neither smart policy, nor effective use of taxpayer dollars.

Further, the county administration has been withholding $240,000 appropriated by the County Legislature to help stop evictions! The reality is that if you really want to prevent evictions and/or rehouse people, you have to actually invest in these efforts. While we share the goal of the HEARTH Act of having no one remaining homeless for more than 30 days, all government indicators — local, state and federal — are that low to moderate income people are going to pay a disproportionate price into the future. We will probably be seeing an increase in homelessness in Westchester, unless of course, we invest wisely.

Jacqueline Thomas
Mount Vernon

The writer is a member and former board member of Mount Vernon United Tenants.