Vouch for the future: Homeless demand mayor make housing vouchers more effective

Homeless individuals and advocates rallied on the steps of City Hall Thursday to decry their dashed housing hopes.

For many struggling with homelessness receiving a CityFHEPS Voucher is a moment filled with hope for the future, longing that life on the streets or in dangerous shelters is almost at an end. These vouchers are intended to give the undomiciled access to apartments yet many attempting to make the transition say the process is an uphill battle that leads to a dead end.

“I myself right now am experiencing discrimination still. I have recently gotten a section eight voucher that my landlord fails to actually confirm that he’s actually willing to accept it. Legally he has to, but I haven’t gotten a response to my email asking that,” Felix Guzman of Vocal-NY said. “It just doesn’t make sense that the city would just abandon people to have vouchers without any kind of conduit in place to get people out of shelters.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Felix Guzman of Vocal-NY. Photo by Dean Moses

According to individuals attempting to secure housing with these vouchers, a litany of challenges arises, including landlords failing to respond when the prospective tenant reveals they are looking to use a voucher. The undomiciled also say they struggle with month after month of attempting to discover an apartment in a price range and location that matches their voucher, leaving them in a seemingly endless loop of home hunting while homeless.

“New York City has been experiencing a housing crisis for years with skyrocketing rents and an ever-increasing homeless population. This is particularly prevalent in low income and Black and Brown communities. Today we are here to request funding for the City Commission on Human Rights Source of Income Unit,” Council Member Nantasha Williams said. “This is important because it ensures that people who have vouchers are able to get housing which is there right under the law.”

Photo by Dean Moses

Those undergoing this issue are calling upon the mayor to allocate $1 million to the City Commission on Human Rights’ Source of Income Unit while also improving administrative issues with the CityFHEPS voucher that prevents New Yorkers from moving on from homelessness and into housing at a reasonable pace. After living with homelessness for years, many in the unhoused community say being unable to find a home once becoming a voucher holder only adds to the trauma and anxiety. 

“The mayor says there needs to be wraparound services–there needs to be wraparound services in vouchers. This is the only way that you’re going to move people from shelter into housing,” Milton Perez of Vocal-NY said.

Source of income discrimination violates the NYC Human Rights law, and the Citizens Commission of Human Rights (CCHR) is a specific unit of attorneys and staff dedicated to investigating discrimination allegations.  

“The administration takes source of income discrimination very seriously and believes more resources are needed to support New Yorkers. That is why we have proposed funding in the FY23 Executive Budget to increase funding to the New York City Commission on Human Rights to expand its current SOI unit,” a City Hall spokesperson told amNewYork Metro. 

If you have experienced or witnessed source of income discrimination contact the CCHR at (212) 416-0197 or dial 311 and ask for “human rights.”