City of Yonkers Demands Answers from New York City’s Special One Time Assistance (Sota) Program Impacting Yonkers’ Homeless Population
YONKERS, NY – December 10, 2019 – In light of New York City’s announcement that it is halting its program of sending homeless people to Newark, NJ, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano today demanded that New York also stop sending homeless individuals to Yonkers.
Mayor Spano also said he is seeking all records of payments made to Yonkers landlords under New York City’s controversial Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program which has impacted cities across the country, including Newark and Yonkers.
SOTA provides homeless individuals or families who have been in a shelter for at least 90 days with one year's pre-paid rent into housing within New York City or another state. New York City sent people to dilapidated housing in Newark, leading Newark to sue New York City in federal court. New York, despite previously promising to notify Yonkers before moving people into buildings, has not disclosed any information about where, who and how many individuals have been sent to Yonkers.
“New York City continues to keep Yonkers in the dark about the impact its SOTA program has on our city,” said Mayor Spano. “We repeatedly have asked New York to provide us information so we can make sure people aren’t being dumped into substandard housing or buildings with violations, but they continue to stonewall us.”
Mayor Spano added, “Now that they have agreed to stop sending people to Newark, we are concerned they will simply step up the number of people they send to Yonkers. We already have a homeless population we struggle to take care of, and we need to make sure New York City isn’t adding to the problem by putting people in substandard housing then walking way, as they did in Newark.”
As part of the FOIL request, Yonkers is asking the City’s Department of Human Resources Administration and its Department of Finance to provide all records evidencing applications for residential housing within Yonkers; all records evidencing lease agreements for residential housing units within Yonkers; and all records evidencing payments, including but not limited to rental payments, for residential housing units within Yonkers.
Mayor Spano added, “We need to ensure these families are in safe and habitable housing and their landlords are in good standing. It is also essential to know what long-term impacts these families have on our already overcapacity school district in which the local taxpayer share exceeds $10,000 per student.”
The Westchester County Department of Social Services manages the care and well-being of the county’s homeless population, who are often sent to Yonkers for overnight sheltering and daily intake services.
“While we are sympathetic to the needs of these individuals, Yonkers serves as the county’s largest city and is already overly burdened by the county’s homeless. We are asking that New York be transparent with us, from one government to another, so we can collectively work together to solve for needs of our most vulnerable population,” said Mayor Spano.
Yonkers Councilman John Rubbo commented, “Yonkers is a diverse city with families from many different socioeconomic backgrounds. As a partner to the Westchester County Department of Social Services, we work hard to assist our existing homeless residents. The fact that Mayor DeBlasio wants to now transition New York’s homeless population out of its city to Yonkers and other local communities is a gross negligence of his social and moral responsibility to the homeless of New York City. As such, I will be proposing a resolution to the Yonkers City Council calling on New York City to effectively put programming in place that properly serves its homeless population, instead of shipping them out to other cities and states. These families deserve better.”
Councilman Rubbo added, “A message to Mayor DeBlasio: Be a leader and help the people of your city. Just because you can’t solve an issue does not mean you can pass the buck. As a Catholic, I want to help the less fortunate, but as an elected representative of Yonkers, my charity will start at home.”