New York City generously shares its homeless crisis with every corner of America.
From the tropical shores of Honolulu and Puerto Rico, to the badlands
of Utah and backwaters of Louisiana, the Big Apple has sent local
homeless families to 373 cities across the country with a full year of
rent in their pockets as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Special One-Time Assistance Program.” Usually, the receiving city knows nothing about it.
City taxpayers have spent $89 million on rent alone since the
program’s August 2017 inception to export 5,074 homeless families —
12,482 individuals — to places as close as Newark and as far as the
South Pacific, according to Department of Homeless Services data
obtained by The Post. Families, who once lived in city shelters,
decamped to 32 states and Puerto Rico.
The city also paid travel expenses, through a separate
taxpayer-funded program called Project Reconnect, but would not divulge
how much it spent. A Friday flight to Honolulu for four people would
cost about $1,400. A bus ticket to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the same
family would cost $800.
Add to the tab the cost of furnishings, which the city also did not
disclose. One SOTA recipient said she received $1,000 for them.
DHS defends the stratospheric costs, saying it actually saves the
city on shelter funding — which amounts to about $41,000 annually per
family, as compared to the average yearly rent of $17,563 to house
But critics says the “stop-gap solution” has been wrought with
problems, and ultimately has failed to help curb the city’s
Not only are officials in towns where the city’s homeless land up in
arms, but hundreds of the homeless families are returning to the five
boroughs — and some are even suing NYC over being abandoned in barely
livable conditions. Multiple outside agencies and organizations have
opened investigations into SOTA.
“We were initially seeing a lot of complaints about conditions. Now
that the program has been in operation long enough that the SOTA subsidy
is expiring, one of our main concerns is it might not be realistic for
people to be entirely self-sufficient after that first year,” said
Jacquelyn Simone, policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless.
DHS said 224 SOTA families have ended up back in New York City
shelters. The agency did not answer The Post’s repeated requests for the
number of families who wind up in out-of-town shelters.
“We suggested that DHS reach out to people as their subsidy runs out
to confirm they will be secure and not have to re-enter shelter, but the
agency told us they have no plans to do that,” said Legal Aid lawyer
Joshua Goldfein, whose firm represents SOTA families who say the city
pressured them to move into New Jersey slums, then ignored calls for