The HOPE survey, which aims to tally an accurate number of Homeless New Yorkers, is set for tonight. Dawn Smalls, candidate for Public Advocate, will be participating in the effort which she hopes will continue to shed light on the total population of homeless New Yorkers - from the people sleeping in the streets to the growing number of women and children being shuffled from shelter to shelter around the city.
"There has long been a perception in NYC that homeless people are riddled with mental illness or drug addiction. Yet, there are more homeless children under the age of 6 than single men," said Smalls of the crisis facing the city. "That is why this survey is so important - so that we can get the full picture of who is living on the streets and who is making it into the shelter system. That way, we can be sure to provide the best services and solutions for those in need."
Smalls has made housing and homelessness one of her major priorities over the course of her campaign for Public Advocate, vowing to dedicate a team to focus on the issue day in and day out if elected to office. She proposes a three-point plan to reduce homelessness:
1. Prioritize women and children first. Smalls proposes adding women and children living in shelters and transitional housing to those given preference for affordable housing lotteries, which currently includes individuals with disabilities or individuals living within the same Community Board district.
2. Expedite transitions to long term housing. Smalls would advocate to increase the availability of supportive housing with physical and mental health services, prioritize transitions to permanent housing instead of offering generous checks to short-term landlords, and ensure that voucher values increase in line with rents.
3. Initiate a 'Children's Advocate' program: Smalls would seek to appoint ‘Children’s Advocates’ to help homeless and low-income families navigate the school system and other services that will help children feel safe and secure. She intends to build a coalition between the Departments of Mental Health, Housing, and Education to help leverage the funds so that advocates can address the academic, mental health, and social challenges students face when experiencing homelessness.
"As a mother of 3 who is raising my children in this city, I am keenly aware of the long term impact on the social and emotional development of these kids," said Smalls. "I believe we need to reframe the conversation around homelessness to focus on women and children."
You can learn more about the policies Dawn Smalls plans to implement as Public Advocate at dawnfornewyork.com.