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Mount Vernon mayor fumes over NYC exporting its homeless there
The mayors of towns who were unwitting recipients of homeless New Yorkers have a message for Mayor Bill de Blasio: Get lost.
Lawmakers from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Honolulu sounded off after a Sunday Post report revealed a city program secretly exported 5,074 families — 12,482 individuals — to 373 towns with a full-year’s rent in their pockets.
At least one is demanding US Attorney General William Barr launch an investigation into Hizzoner’s Special One-Time Assistance program.
“Hawaii will not be able to handle a large number of homeless people being dumped here should New York continue this practice,” wrote Democratic state Rep. John Mizuno after learning one family moved to Honolulu.
“I ask that your agency conduct a legal review and investigation into this matter, as many Hawaii residents have serious concerns that this illegal program could exasperate [sic] an already tragic situation here in Hawaii.”
Closer to home in Westchester County, Mount Vernon Mayor André Wallace, a Democrat, had harsh words for City Hall in response to revelations his community has taken in 138 homeless families in the last two years.
“I want to send a message to everyone: We know what you are doing, and I’m not playing with you,” he fumed. “Those days are over. Our town is not standing for it.”
He said he’d received calls and emails from 60 to 70 outraged taxpayers last week.
Since the program launched in August 2017, New York City has paid $89 million in rent for homeless families to move out of shelters, according to the Department of Homeless Services. It has spent millions more on travel and moving expenses, but refuses to disclose the price tag.
Once the rent subsidy runs out, some SOTA families turn to their new communities for costly social services.
Wallace — who is up for re-election Tuesday in a race that hinges heavily on homeless issues — said Mount Vernon taxpayers footed the bill to remove one SOTA family from an abandoned building last summer.
“Their SOTA money expired, the landlord then kicked them out of their dwelling, and then they end up in the basement of a zombie home,” he said.
“We had to get them out of there and into a shelter.”
In neighboring Yonkers, where 136 SOTA families have moved, Mayor Mike Spano said he is considering suing the city of New York over the “secretive, unfair” program.
New York refuses to tell Yonkers how many homeless families they’re housing there and where, according to Spano.
“It’s unfair for the biggest city in America to deal with their homeless issue by sending it to other communities without telling them,” he said.
Mitch Colvin, the mayor of Fayetteville, which houses six New York City families, said, “We have our own problems with homelessness here in Fayetteville, which we are actively working to address. But how we address them does not involve sending them to other cities.”
The SOTA program has even been hit by claims from recipients who say the city abandoned them without services in slums and substandard homes.
DHS shot back at critics.
“Use of language like ‘export,’ ‘ship,’ ‘dumping grounds,’ when talking about human beings who [are] just trying to find housing and get back on their feet is offensive to us and to those we serve and support every day,” spokesman Isaac McGinn said.