There is very little doubt that homelessness among families has increased dramatically in the past several years. In New York City, it has grown by an estimated 18% since 2011. The causes are as complex and varied as each family that comes to the Hunts Point Multiservice Center where the BronxWorks Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) office is located. It could be attributed to job loss during the recession, a major family health crisis resulting in unexpected expenses, a dramatic decrease of affordable housing coupled with a steady increase in housing costs, or the lack of federal, state and city housing subsidies.
FEPS is a New York City and State funded financial assistance program for low-income families in jeopardy of losing their residence due to non-payment of rent. For now, FEPS is the only remaining available housing subsidy and is a critical source of support that lets families stabilize their lives while they regroup and plan for the future.
BronxWorks has operated a FEPS program for 20 years. Julie Spitzer, Department Director of Homelessness Prevention, applies her 20+ years of experience at BronxWorks to this important work and has been at the forefront of the successful fight to restore recent funding cuts. She notes that she and her staff have handled almost 2,700 families annually in the past two years and emphasizes that avoiding homelessness requires a family to complete a rigorous verification application. Other key elements of the complicated eviction prevention process are securing financial support to cover rent arrears and assistance with the housing court case. BronxWorks has full-time staff assigned to the Bronx Housing Court to guide the family through this part of the process.
When a situation does require legal expertise, we turn to our long-time partner, the Legal Aid Society, led by Marshall Green in the Bronx office. Reflecting on our work together, Marshall says: “BronxWorks does a good job helping clients with most cases, but sometimes complicated cases need an attorney. We are glad to accept those referrals and we have a strong record of working cooperatively with BronxWorks to resolve the most difficult situations to prevent the evictions of our mutual clients.”
The Honorable Jaya K. Madhavan, the supervising judge for the Bronx NYC Housing Court is another invaluable partner in our eviction prevention work. Every day he sees “a lot of fear and confusion about what to do when you are facing eviction.” He notes that the program is a “huge cost saver for everyone, the city, state, and landlords.” On average, the cost to keep a family in their home for one year is $8,755. However, it costs over $36,000 a year to house a family in the shelter system.
In the past 30 months, Julie and her staff prevented over 5,500 families from being evicted, saving taxpayers a substantial amount of money. But numbers aside, Judge Madhavan also says “you cannot calculate in dollars the cost to a child of not being in their own home or of not going to school.”
Thanks to great partners in the city, state and court system, our eviction prevention work is keeping thousands of Bronx neighbors in their homes, fulfilling our mission to help individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being. Together, we are all building a stronger community in the Bronx.
The Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) Application Assistance Program assists families on public assistance with children under the age of 18 (or 18 and in high school) that have rent above their shelter allowance and are in danger of being evicted. The supplement directs Public Assistance to increase the family’s shelter allowance so that they can better afford to pay their rent. Questions or comments? Send them to email@example.com.
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