HOMELESS STUDENT POPULATION SURGE

September 21, 2018 at 5:00 am

As the school year starts, the homeless student population swells. We have an eye opening look at our neighbors in need who are “Chasing The Dream.”

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on September 20, 2018. 

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>> WHEN IT COMES TO THE
HOMELESS PROBLEM HERE IN THE
METROPOLITAN AREA, THE NUMBERS
CAN SEEM STAGGERING.
AND THAT'S ESPECIALLY TRUE WHEN
YOU CONSIDER ONE OF THE NEW
FACES OF THE ISSUE.
STUDENTS.
>> IN NEW YORK CITY ALONE, THE
NUMBER OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
LIVING IN HOMELESS SHELTERS HAS
GONE UP IN EACH OF THE LAST FIVE
YEARS, REACHING ALMOST 33,000 IN
2016.
AND ON LONG ISLAND, SUFFOLK AND
NASSAU COUNTIES HAD NEARLY 3,000
PEOPLE IN HOMELESS FAMILIES, THE
MOST AMONG SMALL CITIES,
COUNTIES AND REGIONS IN THE
COUNTRY.
>> TONIGHT WE'RE BRINGING YOU A
SPECIAL REPORT ON THIS CRISIS AS
PART OF OUR ONGOING REPORTING
INITIATIVE, CHASING THE DREAM.
POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN
AMERICA.
HOW DID THE PROBLEM GET THIS
BAD?
AND WHAT'S BEING DONE TO KEEP
STUDENTS OFF THE STREET AND IN
THEIR HOMES.
JOINING ME NOW WITH ANSWERS IS
ALEC ROBERTS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
OF COMMUNITY HOUSING INNOVATION,
WHICH HAS BEEN AT THE FRONT LINE
OF THESE HOMELESS PROBLEMS HERE
IN THE REGION FOR OVER TWO
DECADES.
>> TELL ME ABOUT WHY THIS
PROBLEM IS BECOMING SO PERVASIVE
IN SUFFOLK AND NASSAU COUNTIES?
>> THE PROBLEM STEMS FROM A
SIMPLE SUPPLY AND DEMAND ISSUE.
BASICALLY, THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH
AFFORDABLE HOUSES OR APARTMENTS
FOR THE PEOPLE TO LIVE IN.
AND THAT STEMS FROM THE FACT
THAT THE PROCESS OF GETTING
ZONED FOR A MULTIFAMILY OR
AFFORDABLE HOUSING JUST DOESN'T
EXIST IN THE NEW YORK
METROPOLITAN AREA.
COMMUNITIES IN NEW YORK STATE
HAVE SOMETHING CALLED HOME RULE,
WHICH MEANS THAT BASICALLY THEY
DECIDE WHAT KINDS OF HOUSING,
WHEN THE HOUSING CHOICE FOR THE
MARKET, THE PREMARKET DOESN'T
OPERATE ON LONG ISLAND.
IT DOESN'T OPERATE OUTSIDE OF
THE CITY OR EVEN IN THE CITY TO
SOME EXTENT, THE CITY AT LEAST
ACKNOWLEDGES THE NEED FOR
AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
ON LONG ISLAND AND WEST CHESTER
WHICH WERE BUILT DURING THE
EXCLUSIONARY PERIODS OF
DISCRIMINATION, BASICALLY HAVE
THE SAME ATTITUDES, AND
THEREFORE THE HOUSING WAS NOT
BEING BUILT.
WHEN YOU HAVE AN IMBALANCE
BETWEEN SUPPLY AND DEMAND YOU
HAVE PRICES THAT GO UP, AND THEY
CONTINUE TO GO UP TREMENDOUSLY.
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT SEEMS TO
COME UP, IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO
LIVE SOMEWHERE, JUST MOVE SOME
PLACE ELSE.
IS THAT POSSIBLE FOR THESE
FAMILIES?
>> IT'S VERY DIFFICULT.
BECAUSE WAGES HAVE NOT KEPT UP
WITH INFLATION ANYWHERE.
BUT IT IS DIFFICULT FOR THE
FAMILIES TO MOVE.
AND THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF
STUDY THAT IN GENERAL, THEY
COULD.
AND THAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE
PAST.
BUT IT IS DIFFICULT FOR THEM.
AND FRANKLY, LONG ISLAND, THEY
WANT TO BE GROWING.
THEY WANT THE ECONOMY TO GROW.
IT'S STAGNANT PRETTY MUCH RIGHT
NOW.
THE SOLUTION I DON'T THINK IS
MOVING WHOLE POPULATIONS OUT OF
LONG ISLAND OR WESTCHESTER, ET
CETERA, BUT TO ALLOW THE FREE
MARKET TO BUILD HOUSING THAT THE
COMMUNITY NEEDS.
>> WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE
DIFFICULTIES OF BEING A HOMELESS
STUDENT ON LONG ISLAND OR IN ONE
OF THE SUBURBS, LET'S SAY, AS
OPPOSED TO BEING A HOMELESS
STUDENT IN NEW YORK CITY?
>> THE CHALLENGES ARE SIMILAR.
ON LONG ISLAND YOU HAVE THE
ADDED DIFFICULTY OF
TRANSPORTATION.
YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD SUBWAY
NETWORK FOR EXAMPLE, SO IT'S
VERY EXPENSIVE TO OWN A CAR,
WHICH ADDS AN ADDITIONAL BURDEN.
A LOT OF THE SAME SOCIAL AND
PSYCHOLOGICAL PATHOLOGIES ARE
COMMON TO BOTH.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION, THE RATE
OF ACTING OUT.
ALL KINDS OF PROBLEMS.
POOR PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL.
ALL OF THESE ISSUES ARE GREATLY
EXACERBATED.
>> IS THERE SOMETHING -- IS
THERE A PUBLIC MISCONCEPTION
THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T
REALIZE ABOUT THESE FAMILIES
THAT THEY SHOULD TAKE INTO
CONSIDERATION?
>> I THINK THAT PEOPLE FEEL THAT
THIS CRISIS JUST HAPPENED, AND
WE KNOW THAT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
HOMELESS FAMILIES, I'M TALKING
ABOUT ARE NOT DIFFERENT FROM
OTHER POOR PEOPLE REALLY.
AND BASICALLY, IF THEY'RE GIVEN
AFFORDABLE APARTMENT, THEY CAN
FUNCTION AND THEY DO FINE.
ALL OF THE MAJOR NATIONAL
STUDIES SHOW THAT REALLY WHETHER
THEY HAVE ENHANCED SERVICES OR
NOT ENHANCED SERVICES, THE THING
THAT WORKS IS A SUBSIDY TO ALLOW
THEM TO BE COMFORTABLY AND
STABLY HOUSED, WHICH IS THE
CRITICAL ISSUE.
>> WELL, YOU MENTIONED THE MAJOR
NATIONAL STUDIES AND THAT IS
ALSO PART OF THIS ISSUE,
NATIONALLY, THE NUMBER OF
HOMELESS FAMILIES HAS GONE DOWN.
EXCEPT THIS ISSUE WE CONTINUE TO
STRUGGLE WITH IT IN THE
METROPOLITAN AREA.
>> THERE ISN'T ENOUGH FOCUS ON
EXCLUSIONARY ZONING, WHICH IS
THE PRIMARY DRIVER OF THIS.
AND THE SECOND THING IS THE
STATE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
REVIEW ACT, WHICH IS USED AS A
WEAPON ON MANY COMMUNITIES, JUST
TO KEEP HOUSING OUT.
IT'S SO DIFFICULT TO BUILD
HOUSING IN THE METROPOLITAN
AREA, BECAUSE OF THE ONEROUS
REGULATIONS THAT THE STATE HAS.
THERE HAVE BEEN ATTEMPTS AT
REFORM, BUT COMMUNITIES JUST
DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP THEIR
EXCLUSIONARY ZONING.
THEIR ABILITY TO DECIDE WHAT
THEY WANT.
AND THEY DON'T WANT AFFORDABLE
HOUSING IN GENERAL.
>>> LISTEN, I WANT TO THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO
ENLIGHTEN US ON THIS SUBJECT.
AND DEFINITELY TO GIVE US IDEAS
ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO START
HAPPENING.
ESPECIALLY AT THE COMMUNITY
LEVEL.
>> THANK YOU, JENNA.
>> THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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