You've heard of halfway houses, right? Halfway to independence is the claim. These residences are designed to assist individuals who are recently released from prison, substance abuse, and/or mental health in-patient facilities and other institutionalized settings to make a smoother transition back to independent living. In theory, they are essential boarding houses that maximize successful independent living and minimize the chances of recidivism back to institutional living. Yet, the reality often does not match the mission.
In New York City we also have three-quarter houses. The name would imply even more support and a smoother transition, yet this is not the case. These "residences" have illegally subdivided apartments with a dozen or more people sleeping on bunk beds in each small apartment. The buildings usually have hundreds of housing code violations. Shelters would claim these were housing placements, even though many of the residents would end up leaving these inhumane conditions to go back to shelters or the streets. In addition, many of the homeless shelter residents placed in these three-quarter houses suffer from severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. There are no supportive services on site, which are critical for these vulnerable New Yorkers.
Back in April, we applauded Mayor Bloomberg for ordering shelters to cease making referrals to three-quarter houses. This hasn't been enough to stop these residences as they are still popping up throughout the City. Now advocates are taking legal action. You cansign the petition to end three-quarter houses in New York City!
Tanya Kessler, an attorney at MFY Legal Services, has filed a class action lawsuit against several three-quarter housing providers. At arecent rally against a provider trying to illegally evict his tenants, Ms. Kessler said “[t]hese houses are masquerading as supportive housing programs but provide no service at all. The operators rake in thousands of dollars in city-financed rent payments a month while creating a revolving door of homelessness. It’s another example of the city’s failure to develop affordable housing for homeless people.”
These vulnerable residents need more support and more humane living conditions. They need the assistance in transitioning from institutional living to independent living or they will be at a greater risk of cycling back to institutional living. These sites will become a revolving door of poverty and despair. We all know that as a city and as a nation, we are better than this.
Join us in calling on Mayor Bloomberg to crack down hard on these three-quarter house providers and stop the illegal practice of warehousing the homeless.