Addressing Homelessness 

New York City is experiencing a crisis of homelessness. In the last year, this crisis has been exacerbated by over 100,000 migrants sent to New York City from southern
border states. With increasing homelessness and rapidly rising costs, New York City
needs solutions to quickly meet the rising need.

To address this crisis, we must first fix mismanaged shelters. NYC IS spending approximately $100,000 per year per individual experiencing homelessness, yet we have little to show for it. Transparency and accountability will lead to informed decision-making, safer shelters, and better outcomes for shelter residents.

Proper oversight will weed out the financial corruption and abusive management carried out by those like Victor Rivera, who ran the Bronx Housing Network with $275 Million of taxpayer money. Mr. Rivera was convicted of Federal charges in 2022 for taking bribes and kickbacks from contractors with BHN, but this was only after a NYTimes investigation brought up the allegations in the first place.

Opening the books to audit and examine shelter operations will keep people safe and help prevent such financial scheming. Homeless services providers should be made to adhere to high standards with clear metrics. Those that do should be rewarded for good performance with contract extensions. Providers that fail to live up the standards need to be held accountable with meaningful penalties, including contract termination.

Brad Lander, New York City’s Comptroller, is required to conduct performance and financial audits of city agencies including DHS. Yet Mr. Lander’s wife, Meg Barnette, is President and CEO of the powerful lobbying group Non-Profit New York, an umbrella organization for over 4,700 nonprofits, including homeless service providers that do business with the City.This astounding conflict undermines trust in Mr. Lander’s independence and suggests he may not make the hard choices needed to fix a broken and costly shelter system which rewards itself for perpetuating homelessness. OCR will advocate for addressing this conflict of interest.

The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, which monitors vendor performance evaluations at DHS, hasn’t fully audited the agency since 2018, when it revealed a blatant disregard of previous auditor recommendations. Mr. Lander should have highlighted this report as a critical failing requiring immediate correction. You can read more about the importance of making homeless shelter financials more transparent here.

Temporary shelters should not be substitutes for proper treatment facilities for people with mental illness and/or drug addiction. We need a well-run, efficient, modernized shelter system, while expanding facilities so that people with mental illness can get real help, and recovery facilities for individuals with drug addiction.


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