A recent declaration in New York is stirring up quite a bit of controversy. The City has begun to enforce a 13-year-old state law that requires homeless people with jobs to pay rent to stay in city shelters. According to a state official, the amount will not exceed 50 percent of the individual’s or families’ income.
Critics of the law say this is just making the financial situation worse for the working homeless. How can they save up enough money to move out of the shelters and into their own apartments and homes if they have to pay for their temporary housing? Who decides who can afford to pay and who cannot?
New York’s Deputy Mayor has stressed that the decision to enforce the law is not based on it being a moneymaker nor is the rent money being used to close budget gaps. But in light of our poor economy, the working homeless should not have another financial burden placed upon them in their journey to recovery and self-sufficiency. Many have been evicted from their homes and have no where to go but to emergency shelters and into temporary housing. They need the opportunity to get back on their feet, while receiving the necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
At the non-profit Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we emphasize self-sufficiency. Clients are allowed to stay up to two years in our transitional housing program, while they further address the issues that led to their homelessness. They are able to work, go to school or get job training, while receiving a wide range of supportive services. Those in our permanent housing program are allowed to stay as long as they like and must pay some rental costs based on their income.
But what about those living in public shelters? Should the working homeless contribute to the costs of their temporary housing? It’s an interesting situation. I’d love to hear what you think.