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Triple Punch to LI Hits Homeless Hard

PHOTO: Debris on streets of coastal New York days after Hurricane Sandy. Advocates for the homeless say 17 months later, the housing situation for many is worse than it was last winter. Photo credit: Walt Jennings, FEMA.
PHOTO: Debris on streets of coastal New York days after Hurricane Sandy. Advocates for the homeless say 17 months later, the housing situation for many is worse than it was last winter. Photo credit: Walt Jennings, FEMA.
April 3, 2014

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – The one, two, three punch of the foreclosure crisis, Hurricane Sandy and the worst winter in recent memory has hit New York hard and – on Long Island especially – left advocates for the homeless staggering.

Many low-income renters lost their dwellings in the wake of the storm, as foreclosure numbers continue to rise and eliminate other rental possibilities.

Greta Guarton, executive director of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, says 17 months after the superstorm, few of the dark clouds have gone away.

"We're actually seeing effects of Sandy more now, and more this past winter, than we did immediately after the storm," she says

And Guarton adds the rough winter may affect the annual one-day homeless count that took place in January.

The cold seems to have driven many to congregate in warm places where they could be more readily counted this year.

Those results will be released in a few weeks.

Guarton says, like most New Yorkers, social service agencies and staff will be glad to see spring weather finally arrive.

Mountainous snow drifts and frigid temperatures forced the annual Vigil for the Homeless at Farmingdale State College to move from mid-February to April 8.

"This has just been a very, very challenging winter,” she stresses. “There have been a lot of programs that had to really turn people away for the first time, because they just didn't have the resources to address additional needs that came up this past winter."

Meanwhile, Valerie Zurblis of the Nassau County Bar Association says attendance keeps growing at the association’s clinics, where help with foreclosures is offered for free.

"This is something we've been doing since 2009, with this whole mortgage foreclosure crisis and of course, Sandy just adds to the situation,” she relates. “So, we did double up the number of clinics we've having, to meet that need."

Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says one answer is boosting the region's affordable housing stock.

"We've been creating luxury home developments and luxury condo developments for too long that the need is at the lower end of the income spectrum for more housing development,” he maintains. “But all the incentives are given to developers to develop these high-end developments."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY