Sunday, October 3, 2010

Officials Slam 'Callous' Dept. of Homeless Services Program That Uses 200 Families as Test Subjects by Tina Moore - NY Daily News

Read original...

Single mom Angie Almodovar, who lost her job in 2008 and is at risk of homelessness, called the program like 'Russian roulette.'

City officials called for a halt Tuesday to a "callous" Department of Homeless Services experiment that uses 200 struggling families as test subjects.
"Just when you think you've heard it all," said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan). "It's inhumane. How cold-hearted and callous."
The Daily News revealed on Tuesday that the study randomly split 400 families in two groups - the "haves" and the "have-nots."
One group gets rental assistance, job training and other services through a one-stop program called Homebase.
The second group is barred from Homebase for up to two years and must find help on its own at other agencies. Researchers will track the families to see find who finds services and who winds up in shelters.
"It's bizarre. It's like they're being cast to the wind," said Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan).
The 400 people comprise about 5% of the 7,700 people who use the program every year.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called for an end to the "cruel and heartless experiment," and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) promised to work with the Bloomberg administration to "ensure families are not placed at risk." She declined to say if the test should be stopped.
Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), who heads the General Welfare Committee, said she'll call for hearings.
DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond defended the experiment, saying it was needed to evaluate the program and is similar to one underway at the national level.
"There are some people who have questioned the effectiveness [of Homebase]," he said. "The city's [Independent Budget Office] said you can't tell with present data whether prevention programs are effective."
Sharon Lee, a spokeswoman for City Controller John Liu, said the study "practically screams for closer examination."
Homeless prevention groups are fielding an increasing number of calls from families in the "have-not" category, said Louise Seeley of the nonprofit group Housing Court Answers.
"While there are other resources for people facing eviction and homelessness, they are extremely limited and hard to reach," she said.