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Right Under Our Eyes Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness in Affluent Westchester County By Karl Bertrand, LMSW.

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Presentation on theme: "Right Under Our Eyes Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness in Affluent Westchester County By Karl Bertrand, LMSW."— Presentation transcript:

1 Right Under Our Eyes Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness in Affluent Westchester County By Karl Bertrand, LMSW

2 How many people of Westchester’s 949,113 residents live in poverty? A) 5,694 (0.6%) B) 19,241 (2.0%) C) 50,368 (5.3%) D) 77,827 (8.2%) E) 125,471 (13.2%) Answer: D) 77,827 (8.2%) Source: Census 2010 Demographic Profile Data via American FactFinder.

3 How many hours/week at minimum wage do you need to afford a 2-BR apartment in Westchester without being “housing cost-burdened”? A) 54 B) 82 C) 112 D) 134 E) 168 Answer: E) 168 (= 4.1 full-time jobs) Source: “ Out of Reach 2011, ” National Low Income Housing Coalition.

4 What is the “poverty line”? Family Size100%130%200% 1$ 11,170$ 14,856$ 22,340 2$ 15,130$ 20,123$ 30,260 3$ 19,090$ 25,390$ 38, 180 4$ 23,050$ 30,657$ 46,100 Source: “ 2012 Annual Federal Poverty Guidelines, ” Families USA.

5 How many people in Westchester receive public assistance? Type of Assistance # Households# People (estimated) TANF (for families with children) 3,39910,000 Safety Net (for individuals & childless couples) 2,9293,500 Food Stamps36,52083,996 Source: Data on Households Served provided by Westchester County Dept. of Social Services, 1/31/12.

6 Doesn’t the government take care of poor people? Onerous requirements (quarterly recertifications, documentation, work, treatment, etc.) and frequent sanctions “Churning”: 71.8% of PA cases closed each year in NYS outside NYC (Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies) Errors: agency decisions reversed in 96.4% of fair hearings (New York City Public Advocate) Denying access

7 Don’t people on welfare get enough money for rent? Unit SizeWC Fair Market Rent 2012 WC Average Advertised Rent (Q4, 2010) WC Monthly Welfare Rent Allowance 0-BR$1,183$ 978 $ 295 (1 person) 1-BR$1,280$1,260 $314 (2 people) 2-BR$1,424$1,655 $426 (3 people) 3-BR$1,752$1,850 $479 (4 people)

8 Don’t people on welfare get enough money for food? New York’s basic welfare grant ($291/month for a family of 3) did not change from 1990 to 2009. Since 1990 the cost of living in New York has risen 63%. NYS increased the basic grant by 10% in 2009 and 2010. Gov. Cuomo deferred the final 10% increase set for 2011 and now wants to reduce it to 5% in 2012. Source: “ Legislative and Budget Agenda 2011-2012, ” Empire State Economic Security Campaign; “ Cuomo Budget Seeks Delay in Welfare Grant Hike, ” Hunger Action Network of New York State.

9 Don’t Food Stamps give people enough money for food? One in seven Americans now get Food Stamps. That’s 45.7 million Americans. The average Food Stamp benefit is $31.50 per person per week (Jewish Council for Public Affairs.) This translates to $1.50 per meal. 64.4% of people in poverty in Westchester do NOT receive food stamps (U.S. Census 2010 American Community Survey.)

10 How widespread is hunger in Westchester? 23 communities have emergency food programs 30 soup kitchens 68 food pantries 6,657,981 pounds of food for 5,548,318 meals distributed last year by the Food Bank for Westchester Emergency food requests in Westchester rose 30% in 2010, 15% more in 2011, and 9% more in 2012 Food Bank estimates 200,000 Westchester residents are hungry or at risk of hunger.

11 What % of Westchester households experience “food hardship”? Congressional District Communities Included% Households with Food Hardship 17th Mt. Vernon, W. Yonkers, 21.3% 18th White Plains, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Chappaqua, E. Yonkers 8.8% 19th Yorktown, Peekskill, northern Westchester 12.7% “Food Hardship” = not enough $ for food in last 12 months Source: “ Food Hardship in America - 2010, ” Food Research and Action Center, March 2011.

12 Does affluent Westchester have homeless people? In August 1989 Yonkers alone had more homeless persons than 51 upstate New York counties combined. As of April 1990, 1.4% of all Yonkers households were living in shelters, more than 3 times the proportion in NYC. The New York Times reported on 9/4/90 that Westchester County was believed to have the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation. (Source: “Queries First, Aid Later For a County’s Homeless,” The New York Times, Sept. 4, 1990.)

13 Rising Income Inequality in America Source: “ Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007. ” Congressional Budget Office, Oct. 2011.

14 What causes homelessness? 1) Poverty 2) Inadequate welfare rent allowances 3) Co-op/Condo conversions (Yonkers lost 10,000 rental units (20% of total) to conversion in 5 years (1980-1985) 4) Deinstitutionalization 5) Drugs (e.g. crack epidemic in 1980s) 6) Divorce and failure to provide child support

15 What causes homelessness? 7) Less acceptance of domestic violence 8) Returning veterans with mental health or drug problems 9) Declines in Federal housing subsidies 10) Aging out of foster care 11) Poor education and lack of job skills 12) The “pipeline to prison” and increasing “disproportionate minority contact”

16 NYC’s Shelter Population 1983-2011 New York City is seeing record HIGH numbers of homeless people.

17 Westchester’s Shelter Population 1985-2011 Westchester reduced the number of homeless people here for 20 years. Source: Westchester County Department of Social Services.

18 How many Westchester residents are homeless? Jan. 1991Dec. 2011% Change Families996307  69% Parents1,168386  67% Children1,926493  74% Single Adults1,459297  80% Total People4,5531,176  74%

19 How did Westchester cut homelessness by 77% over the last 20 years (1991 to 2011)? Built or renovated over 2,000 affordable housing units Got NYS approval to double the rent allowance for 908 formerly homeless households Got ongoing HUD funding to pay FMR for 630 disabled and formerly homeless households Got county funding to increase rent for 60 households Created mobile case management systems for 1,580 mentally ill and/or chemically dependent people Cut length of stay by focusing on “rapid rehousing” (e.g. Sharing Community in 2010-2011 cut ALOS 36%)

20 What can you do? Send letters, emails and phone calls Get on the Hunger Action Network of NYS’ email list to learn about issues surrounding poverty, hunger and homelessness Take the Food Stamp Challenge: live for one week on $31.50 of food (see Jewish Council for Public Affairs website) Volunteer at a soup kitchen (Grace Church Community Center in White Plains, Sharing Community in Yonkers and HOPE in New Rochelle all welcome volunteers.) Volunteer to tutor youth at a Westhab Family Center.

21 Check out these YouTube videos: “Why I am an advocate for the hungry and homeless” by Karl Bertrand “Beds, Not Chairs” by Karl Bertrand “Rabbi Steve Gutow Takes the Food Stamp Challenge” by Rabbi Steve Gutow

22 Karl Bertrand, L.M.S.W., President Program Design and Development, LLC 47 Wayside Drive White Plains, NY 10607 (914) 592-1272

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