Advantage Program Residents Hope To Stay Put
Landlords are starting to dole out eviction notices to city residents who used to get state and city help paying their rent. The money came from a program called Advantage but now it's been canceled and thousands fear they may have to return to shelters. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
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Julius Hodges looks like a healthy guy.
"I always worked, always had a job," he said.
But he's not fit anymore and he can't work. Two years ago, someone blindsided him with a crowbar.
"I got a fractured skull and I wasn't able to work," he said. "I get tremors in both my legs."
The disability left him unable to pay rent and in a homeless shelter until he moved to an apartment with help from a program called Advantage which added rent money to his disability check.
But last year, the state pulled out of the program and this year the city stopped payments. Hodges feels blindsided again.
"Just pulled the rug up under my feet," he said.
Georgette Collins-Hines has kidney disease. She may also have to return to a shelter.
Like hundreds of disabled people, she had hoped, after two years on Advantage, to transition to federal housing help but that dried up.
"I don't know what's gonna happen," she said.
Advocates point to more than 5,000 families and at least 1,000 singles at risk.
"At this point, we have a crises that has to be addressed by the city," said Marc Greenberg, the executive director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. "For singles, the evictions have already started. For families, they're probably going to start soon unless they can win a delay in the court."
Seth Diamond, the city's Homeless Services Commissioner, said the situation is not that bleak.
"Most families, the overwhelming number who were on Advantage, will not come back into the shelter system," he said.
But Diamond said the city can't afford to pay the roughly $6 million per month it would cost for Advantage. His agency continues to reach out to Advantage's former clients with legal, financial and employment services.
"A lot of the singles in the program have some kind of income," he said. "Our efforts are to try to maximize that income."
Hodges wants to return to work.
"I'm not the type of man to give up," he said.
But until then, even if he gave up food, he still would come up short on rent.
Georgette won't ever be able to work again and feels victimized by the government.
"You all failed us," she said.
Advantage clients wait on a final appeal. The state's highest court could order the city to continue paying its portion of their rents.