ARE YOU ONE PAYCHECK AWAY FROM HOMELESSNESS?

February 23, 2019 at 4:30 am

The stats are astounding and more common than you can imagine!

Aired on February 22, 2019. 

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>>> NOBODY LIKES TO THINK ABOUT
IT, BUT WHAT IF YOU WERE A
FAMILY MEMBER WHO LOSES A JOB
AND YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF
INCOME IS CUT OFF?
EVEN IF IT'S JUST FOR A FEW
MONTHS.
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH SAVINGS TO
GET YOU THROUGH THIS TEMPORARY
SETBACK?
THE NONPROFIT ASSOCIATION FOR
NEIGHBORHOOD AND HOUSING
DEVELOPMENT HAS REVEALED THAT
NEARLY 60%, THAT'S 6-0 PERCENT
OF NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS DON'T
HAVE ENOUGH CASH IN THE BANK TO
COVER HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES, SUCH
AS FOOD AND RENT, FOR AT LEAST
THREE MONTHS.
THIS IS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE
CHASING THE DREAM THAT EXAMINES
POVERTY OPPORTUNITY AND
INEQUALITY IN AMERICA.
AMY ZIMMER IS A REPORTER AND
SHE'S HERE WITH US TO SHARE MORE
ABOUT HER FINDINGS.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST
AS A CONSEQUENCE OF YOUR
REPORTING AND YOUR RESEARCH
HERE?
>> THE SHEAR NUMBERS.
I MEAN, I THINK THAT WE KNOW
PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING IN NEW
YORK CITY AND THERE'S A LOT OF
ECONOMIC ANXIETY, BUT JUST
SEEING THAT NEARLY 60% OF NEW
YORKERS ARE THAT CLOSE TO
POSSIBLE EVICTION, LOSING THEIR
HOMES, IT IS SURPRISING, AND WE
ALL COMPLAIN ABOUT RENT, RENT
BEING SO HIGH, BUT I THINK WE
DON'T REALIZE JUST HOW INSECURE
PEOPLE ARE AND HOW AT RISK FOR
HOMELESSNESS THEY ARE.
>> WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT NEW
YORK CITY AND THE NOTION OF
CLASS DIVIDES AND WHO CAN EVEN
AFFORD TO LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY
ANYMORE?
>> I MEAN, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT
I THINK PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY
TALKING ABOUT, AND I THINK IT
SHOWS THAT, FIRST OF ALL, LOW
INCOME PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY ARE
STRUGGLING AND RENTS HAVE BEEN
GROWING MUCH FASTER THAN
INCOMES, BUT I THINK A LOT OF
MIDDLE CLASS NEW YORKERS ARE
STRUGGLING AS WELL.
60% IS A LOT AND IT'S -- IT IS
VERY SCARY TO THINK THAT IF YOU
HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR IF
YOU MISS WORK BECAUSE OF THAT
AND LOSE ONE OR TWO PAYCHECKS,
THAT'S IT, YOU HAVE NO CUSHION.
>> I JUST HAD BACK SURGERY AND
WHEN I WAS DOING THE RESEARCH
FOR OUR CONVERSATION HERE I
THOUGHT, DO YOU KNOW WHAT, IF
I'M A WORKER IN NEW YORK CITY,
YOU KNOW, BLUE COLLAR LABORER,
WHICH I DID IN COLLEGE AND LAW
SCHOOL, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN I'VE
GOT BACK SURGERY AND I'M OUT FOR
A WHILE, I COULD BE ONE OF THIS
60% THAT'S DOING IT.
LET ME ASK YOU THIS: DID YOU
FIND IN TERMS OF GEOGRAPHICAL
AREAS IN THE CITY THAT SOME ARE
MORE SUBJECT TO THE FEARS THAN
OTHERS?
>> SO DEFINITELY.
IN THE BRONX, THE BRONX HAD THE
HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO
HAD VERY LITTLE IN TERMS OF A
CUSHION.
SO SOUTH BRONX, 75% OF RESIDENTS
THERE DON'T HAVE EMERGENCY
SAVINGS.
>> THAT'S A FRIGHTENING NUMBER.
>> IT IS VERY FRIGHTENING.
IN BROOKLYN YOU HAVE BUSHWICK,
BEDFORD-
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, IN GREENS,
CORONA, AREAS ACROSS THE CITY
PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING AND LIVING
ON THIN MARGINS.
>> ARE THERE PLACES WHERE PEOPLE
CAN GO IN THE CITY IF THEY FIND
THEMSELVES IN THIS KIND OF
SITUATION, THESE TYPES OF DIRE
STRAITS, ARE THERE THINGS THAT
WE CAN DO THAT MAYBE THEY DON'T
KNOW ABOUT?
>> I THINK THEY DON'T KNOW ABOUT
IT.
THE CITY DOES HAVE A RENTAL
ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
SO IF YOU FALL BEHIND IN YOUR
RENT THERE IS SOME HELP, BUT YOU
HAVE TO MEET CERTAIN
QUALIFICATIONS, FOR INSTANCE,
THERE IS A PROGRAM WHERE YOU
HAVE TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE CHILD
AT HOME AND THEN YOU HAVE TO
HAVE BEEN SUED BY YOUR LANDLORD
FOR MISSED RENT.
SO AT THAT POINT IT MIGHT BE --
IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE.
>> YOU'RE PRETTY WELL DOWN THE
ROAD AT THAT POINT.
>> THAT'S RIGHT, SO IT MIGHT BE
TOO LATE FOR SOME PEOPLE.
ALSO ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH THE
PROGRAM IS THAT YOU HAVE TO
SOMETIMES TAKE OFF FROM WORK TO
GO TO THE OFFICE TO APPLY.
>> LET'S LOSE SOME MORE MONEY SO
I CAN GO TO THE OFFICE TO FIND
OUT IF I CAN STAY IN MY
APARTMENT.
>> EXACTLY.
THAT IS A PROBLEM.
BUT THERE IS SOME HELP.
THERE WAS A RENTAL ASSISTANCE
PROGRAM DURING THE BLOOMBERG
ADMINISTRATION AS WELL CALLED
ADVANTAGE AND THAT WAS
DISCONTINUED IN 2011.
THERE WERE A LOT OF COMPLAINTS
THAT ADVOCATES HAD ABOUT THAT
PROGRAM, THERE WERE SOME ONEROUS
WORK REQUIREMENTS, BUT STILL
WHEN IT WAS BEING CANCELED
PEOPLE WERE WORRIED.
SINCE THEN HOMELESSNESS HAS
SKYROCKETED.
A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THAT THE
PROBLEM WE'RE SEEING NOW WITH
RECORD NUMBERS OF PEOPLE IN
SHELTERS, I MEAN, WE ARE AT
60,000 PEOPLE IN SHELTERS HERE.
>> LOOKING AT SOME OF YOUR
RESEARCH AND YOUR REPORTING AND
WRITING AND SOME OTHER THINGS, I
CAME ACROSS A STATISTIC SAYING,
LOOK, IT WOULD BE LESS EXPENSIVE
FOR THE CITY INSTEAD OF PAYING
FOR PEOPLE IN SHELTERS, TO
PROVIDE ASSISTANCE FOR RENT.
DOES THAT SEEM ACCURATE TO YOU?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
SO WITH THE RENTAL ASSISTANCE
PROGRAM IT'S A STOPGAP WHERE YOU
CAN PAY SOMEONE'S MISSED
PAYMENTS, THE CITY, I THINK,
ESTIMATED IT COSTS AN AVERAGE
ABOUT 3,000 OR SO TO DO THAT,
WHEREAS TO HOUSE A FAMILY IN A
SHELTER IT CAN COST $40,000 A
YEAR.
SO IT'S DEFINITELY A LOT CHEAPER
TO HAVE RENTAL ASSISTANCE
PROGRAMS AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE
THAN TO HOUSE A FAMILY IN A
SHELTER.
>> LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, AGAIN,
YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME LOOKING
INTO THIS.
IS THERE ANY CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM?
DO YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE
HORIZON WHERE THE CITY IS
SAYING, OKAY, WE'RE GOING TO DO
SOMETHING HERE TO HELP PEOPLE,
OR DOES THIS SEEM TO BE JUST AN
INEXORABLE SLIDE WE'RE GOING TO
SEE?
>> UNFORTUNATELY WITH RENTS
BEING WHAT THEY ARE, I'M NOT
SURE WHAT THE ANSWERS ARE.
THE CITY IS TRYING TO BUILD MORE
AFFORDABLE HOUSING, BUT THEN
THERE ARE QUESTIONS, AFFORDABLE
TO WHO?
HOW AFFORDABLE?
>> AGAIN, AMY ZIMMERMAN, A
FASCINATING ARTICLE, GREAT
REPORTING.
WE WILL LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING
YOU BACK WITH US SOMETIME SOON.
>> THANK YOU.
>> YOU TAKE CARE.
>> OKAY.

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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