A plan to charge rent to homeless New Yorkers with jobs is coming under fire from advocates and lawmakers who say the policy change is absurd. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Dozens of lawmakers, advocates and homeless New Yorkers gathered Thursday on the steps of City Hall to call out the Bloomberg administration's plan to start collecting rent from those living in the shelter system who are employed.
"Mayor, what is wrong with you? You cannot charge homeless people for shelter. My guess is the reason they are homeless is because they couldn't pay for their apartment or their homes to begin with," City Councilman Jumaane Williams said.
"The goal is to get out of that shelter and into permanent housing. When you are charging rent you are making it harder to reach that goal, plain and simple," said State Senator Daniel Squadron.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg breezed past the crowd on his way in.
The city says it is going ahead with the rent charges to comply with a long-ignored state mandate that's been on the books since 1997. But, officials aren't exactly opposed to the idea of charging rent to working homeless in the shelter system.
"We do believe that in exchange for all of those benefits, clients have got to step up to some expectations to what has to come from their end of the deal," said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs.
Under the plan, a homeless family of three earning $10,000 a year would pay $36 a month in rent, but the rent payments jump significantly as their income goes up. A family of three earning $25,000 per year, for example, would have pay $926 in monthly rent payments.
"We find, at HRA, that if we encourage and require personal responsibility and then support that, it happens," said Robert Doar of the New York City Human Resources Administration.
Most homeless New Yorkers -- some 85 percent -- won't have to pay rent because they don't have jobs or earn enough money.
The homeless rent charges are set to take effect this fall, but some state lawmakers are trying to stop the plan through legislation that would exempt New York City from the state requirement that homeless people contribute to the cost of shelter.
The Legal Aid Society says it's also prepared to challenge the policy in court.