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February 14, 2002
Contact: (518) 455-5203
Assembly Panel Hears About Record Homelessness and Hunger
Hearing in Response to Dramatic Rise in Shelter Numbers and Demand for Emergency Food

(New York, NY) - An Assembly panel held a hearing today in NYC on The State and Local Government's Response to Rising Levels of Homelessness and Hunger. It was sponsored by Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Social Services, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, and Assemblyman Clarence Norman, Chair of the Task Force on the Homeless.

The purpose of the hearing was to inform the Legislature about the effectiveness of government and private programs and policies that address homelessness and hunger across New York State and receive recommendations for changes. Over 30 witnesses testified, including government agencies, homelessness and hunger advocate groups, shelter providers, and shelter residents and others who are concerned about these disturbing trends.

The downturn in the economy, including the ripple effects of the September 11th tragedy, inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, and the shortage of supportive housing for the homeless have contributed to a dramatic growth in homelessness and hunger not seen since the 1980s, and have challenged the ability of State and local government, and service providers to respond.

The number of homeless families and single adults receiving shelter in NYC, more than 30,000, is at the highest level in history, and includes nearly 13,000 children. Officials in Long Island, Albany and other Upstate cities are reporting similar trends. In addition, surveys conducted a year ago estimate that close to 3 million New York State residents, 37% of whom are children and 25% are over 50, are served by emergency food providers annually. The programs in place to respond to these problems are being stretched beyond their limits, resulting in needy families being turned away by both shelter providers and food pantries.

According to Assemblymember Glick, "The recession cannot be used as an excuse for denying basic support to those who are homeless or suffering from hunger. The Governor must find the resources to substantially reduce, if not eliminate these dual crises."

"It is imperative that we obtain the necessary funding from the City, State and Federal governments to meet the housing needs of the jobless and working poor," said Assemblyman Lopez.

Assemblyman Norman said, "The problems of homelessness and hunger continue to be pervasive. Advocates reiterated what we certainly recognize, that these problems are multi-faceted, not simply an issue of finding a home or a meal but providing a range of services. We must, as a State, continue to do all that we can to take care of those who cannot care for themselves. The concerns and strategies of those at the front lines will serve us well as we seek to enact effective policies."

Assemblyman Ortiz stated, "After the World Trade Center disaster, laid-off hotel and restaurant workers came to my office seeking help. Many of them are hardworking immigrants who are not eligible for most federal assistance programs such as Food Stamps. As we work to revitalize our economy and provide jobs, we also need to restore federal, State and City assistance for all families so they can stay in their homes, buy their own food, and not have to bring their children to soup kitchens or homeless shelters anymore."

The Assembly Majority has added funding to the Governor's budget over the last several years for homeless programs such as: additional homeless housing assistance, rental assistance for employed adults, outreach, housing for homeless with AIDS, on-site mental health services at shelters, additional homeless intervention services, and additional supportive housing for homeless individuals with mental illness. In addition, the Assembly added $40 million in new State funding for food assistance over the last three years.

The information gathered at this hearing will be used to develop the Assembly's response to the Governor's homeless and food assistance budget proposals and to examine new strategies to address the housing and food needs of all New Yorkers.

New York State Assembly
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