The proposal pushed by Mayor Noam Bramson to spend $100,000 of New Rochelle Municipal funds, a figure beyond what is already provided by Westchester County, comes from HOPE Community Services. The City Council voted to adopt the plan. So we want to get on record now that this is a farce.
Despite what anyone will admit publicly, the impetus for this came from Bramson's mother complaining to her son about the homeless people in the Library Green which is directly across the street from her apartment at Halstead New Rochelle Metro-North, also known as "Avalon 2", located at 40 Memorial Highway in downtown New Rochelle.
As much as he and others want to sugarcoat it, this is basically a plan to "relocate" New Rochelle's homeless population away from Noam's mother's apartment. That it also benefits downtown businesses and other downtown residents is more of a bonus.
The guts of the proposal are that it will...
- Reduce the homeless presence in downtown New Rochelle, New Rochelle Library, train station and emergency room waiting area and any other places where the homeless loiter (currently).
- Reduce the overall homeless population by 25% in the first year of operation.
HOPE Community Services proposes do this by...
Tracking individuals in a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a category of software used to "collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness". Whatever software is purchased, the HMIS software solution must comply with data collection, management, and reporting standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The core idea is to basically close off or block certain areas in downtown at night and increase enforcement to drive the homeless away from downtown and towards the area around Montefiore Hospital.
While downtown will be hostile towards the homeless, the area around Montefiore Hospital will be a "safe space for the homeless".
The "safe zone" for the homeless will seek to convert the homeless into non-homeless by providing counseling and referral services by a Case Manager. This person's job is "to reduce the number of homeless individuals in the immediate region" by placing individuals in appropriate housing using the Westchester Housing Recovery Network (COG) and HOPE's two housing programs and coordinate and collaborate with other New Rochelle homeless service providers. The cost of this person in the proposed budget ($47,925) is just under half the total cost to the City ($98,870). A larger portion of the balance of the budget is overhead and other costs related to the work of this person.
In other words, this program is basically a program to give HOPE Community Services a new full-time staffer and two part-time assistants to cover the weekends while providing cover for Noam to chase the homeless away from his mom's neighborhood.
The Homeless Resource Center Program is to be run by New Rochelle CAP (WESTCOP), the OASIS Shelter and HOPE Community Services. The stated purpose of the Homeless Resource Center is to remove homeless individuals from the Downtown, New Rochelle business district. The ultimate goal is to reduce the regional homeless population (Mayor Bramson actually said the goal was to eliminate homelessness).
The Program will operate year-round, Monday through Friday, at two locations; between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. from the OASIS Shelter and from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the HOPE Community Services facility.
The Program Capacity is undefined, described only as "limited by the number of cases that could be handled during the course of the Period of Operations". Services will be made available to any person 18 years of age or older from the "Westchester area"; as these are individuals classified as "homeless" they are not from anywhere so this designation is meaningless.
HOPE Community Services acknowledges concerns that have been raised about their program...
- The program will attract clients from other cities to New Rochelle.
- The homeless will never leave New Rochelle.
- HOPE has no experience dealing with clients with mental illness and substance abuse.
Having raised these concerns in their proposal, HOPE Community Services then completely ignores them by failing to address them in any way.
HOPE Community Services says they will get referrals from...
New Rochelle CAP/Oasis, New Rochelle Police Department, New Rochelle Library, Dimensions, New York Covenant Church, New Rochelle Merchants and Residents, The Guidance Center Other New Rochelle Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries and unnamed Places of Worship.
HOPE Community Services says they will get these referrals via a "Homeless Hot Line" and pick up individuals using available relocation transportation, specifically a van operated by the Oasis Shelter. Unfortunately, the "Homeless Hot Line" will only be "hot" from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; the other 20 hours a day it will be cold (and 24 hours a day on weekends).
Phase one of this operation is already in place...
- The day after City Council approved the plan, New Rochelle police began to issue City Code violations to people in the Library Green after dark.
- For the first time in years the Library Green gates are being locked at night.
The short-term effect of pushing individuals out of Library Green has been to push them in to the areas around Anderson Street and North Avenue and the New Rochelle Transit Center both of which have seen a large uptick in aggressive panhandlers, a phenomenon that has already sparked complaints in those areas.
The proposal by HOPE Community Services includes a table titled "Clients Using Warming Site" (left) which we put into a spreadsheet (right) in order to calculate the growth in the count of homeless individuals between 2012 and 2013.
This table is utterly meaningless.
There is no data source indicated and no explanation of what the count for each month represents.
Are these figures provided by HUD? Westchester County? Deloitte? Ernst & Young? McKinsey? Noam's Mom?
Does the monthly figure indicate an average over the course of the month, the peak capacity for a given month? Other?
If these figures are the monthly average and the source is HOPE Community Services, this raises a lot of question but most importantly this one -- why would the City rely on the group seeking the money to be the source for the data used to evaluate the use of that money over time?
Unless HOPE Community Services can provide independently verified data, there is no data. If there is no data, then how will the taxpayer know that HOPE Community Services achieved its stated goal of reducing "homelessness" by 25% in the first year.
One way for HOPE Community Services to be confident in their ability to reduce homelessness in New Rochelle by 25% is to artificially inflate the figures in the prior year to just over 25%. In fact, the simple average of the increase indicated in their table is about 26%.
Further, there is no definition of what constitutes an individual being categorized as "homeless" except that they use "homeless services" like the Oasis Shelter or HOPE Soup Kitchen. No differentiation is made between an individual who lives on the street, not by choice, who is not mentally impaired or a substance abuser and a person who got very drunk and did not want to go home one night - and everything in between.
It's hard not to see these figures as a rigged deck designed to allow HOPE Community Services and Mayor Bramson declare "victory" when the time comes.
Talk of the Sound predicts that at the end of Year One, HOPE Community Services will produce a report showing that the number of "homeless" individuals has declined to 2012 levels and this will be used to justify throwing more money at the program.
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