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Homes and Community Renewal

Commissioner Rubin’s Remarks On Governor Cuomo’s Homelessness Action Plan
Delivered at 16th Annual New York State Supportive Housing Conference

On behalf of Governor Cuomo, I want to thank SHNNY and its members for working so successfully with New York State, in particular with the Office of Mental Health, OTDA, DOH and of course my agency, Homes and Community Renewal.  Year after year, you find new and creative ways to build housing using a variety of creative partnerships, financing mechanisms and operating models.

For several years, I had the privilege of chairing the Board of Directors of Common Ground, which is the largest supportive housing provider in the state.   My experience with that remarkable organization armed me with ten years of evidence about the extraordinary impact that well-planned, carefully run and fully funded supportive housing has on communities and on the lives of homeless people. 

Of course, Governor Cuomo’s background in this area is far deeper than mine.  He founded HELP and chaired Mayor Dinkins’ panel on homelessness, then served for four years as HUD Secretary. 

Through his actions and his words, the Governor has made clear his belief that we have a moral obligation to house the homeless, and to provide them with the essential services they need to remain stably housed.  There are few more meaningful or important things that government can do.

For this reason, I am pleased to announce today that we are launching the $2.6 billion next phase of the Governor’s $10 billion statewide Homelessness Action Plan to finance new supportive units, provide emergency shelter beds and to create a task force to ensure that the government of the State of New York is meeting its obligation head on.

The Governor previewed this plan in his State of the State address when he made a commitment to finance 20,000 new supportive housing units over the next 15 years, provide continued support for existing supportive housing and make new shelter beds available.

Today we are taking some critical first steps toward delivering on that promise. 

First, the New York State Office of Mental Health today will issue the RFP to provide funding for the operations and services for 1,200 new units. The RFP will move on a fast track – proposals are due in 45 days and conditional awards will be made 45 days later.

Second, the state will provide New York City with the opportunity to use space for 513 shelter beds available at underused state and state-supported facilities that currently serve the homeless. These beds are available to provide immediate relief through the City’s Safe Haven program for the street homeless population and homeless individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems.

Last December, the Governor asked me and several of my colleagues in state government – notably Fran Barrett – to convene a series of meetings that ultimately included more than 100 nonprofit leaders and State agency heads.  Over the course of a number of long days and nights…we heard from many of you on your hard-won lessons about what really works, not in the abstract but in practice, every day.

The Governor believes that we need to continue to learn from each other – to test out ideas and find the best ways to help those who are homeless, look closely at the causes of homelessness and to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place.

To continue and expand that dialogue, the Governor is forming an Interagency Council on Homelessness, which I will co-chair along with Fran Barrett, the Governor’s Interagency Coordinator for Not-for-Profit Services. Our charge is to take a more comprehensive look at the problem of homelessness statewide and to find ways to eliminate barriers to service. We’ll work over the next 24 months with providers and local governments to identify problems, pursue solutions and establish a creative and flexible set of best practices, including ensuring a statewide Continuum of Care. We’ll begin work immediately with plans to issue a preliminary report in the late fall.

Finally, later today we will release the findings of a multi-agency team led by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to inspect all 916 homeless shelters across the State. 

In short: Governor Cuomo’s Homelessness Action Plan is a broad, wide-reaching approach to addressing one of our most intransigent problems, the one you all have dedicated your lives to solving.  

It’s comprehensive in the sense that it serves the entire state, but it’s designed to be flexible in the solutions it prescribes – reflecting our conviction that there is no one way to solve homelessness in any given community or to ameliorate people’s individual troubles.

Nobody knows this better than you.  Out of necessity, New York has for decades led the way in finding new solutions to homelessness.  The Supportive Housing model was invented here and when Los Angeles or San Francisco or Houston finally declared themselves in crisis they looked to us for answers.  Everything they’re doing now has already been done by DePaul, or by CUCS, or by BRC, or by HELP or – yes – by Breaking Ground. 

In the months ahead we will be working harder than ever with you and with all of our local government partners to stay in the lead.  I thank you for your commitment and I look forward to continuing our work together.