“While the City is spending more money than ever before on services that are supposed to help people overcome and prevent homelessness, we are not seeing the reductions in homelessness that we should,” Comptroller Stringer said.
By Forum Staff
A recently released audit revealed weak oversight of the City’s Homebase Program, which is intended to help families and single adults overcome housing crises, avoid homelessness, and achieve housing stability, according to City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Homebase is a City-administered homelessness prevention program operating out of 26 locations across all five boroughs. It primarily serves households whose income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level for families with children or 30 percent of Area Median Income for adult households who are at risk of homelessness or who have recently left the shelter system.
The administration of Homebase was transferred from the Department of Homeless Services to HRA in January 2017, during the scope period the audit covered, Stringer noted. However, a majority of the staff in leadership roles overseeing the program have remained the same. HRA currently has Homebase contracts with seven non-profit organizations: Help USA, Bronxworks, Catholic Charities Community Services Archdiocese of NY, Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services, CAMBA, Rise Boro Community Partnership; and SUS Urgent Housing Programs.
According to Stringer, the audit exposed failures by the City’s Human Resources Administration to adequately and promptly review Homebase providers’ case files and to promptly alert them to correct the deficiencies it finds. Further, HRA’s incomplete tracking of clients who repeatedly return to the Homebase program for services and financial assistance after their cases are closed, combined with inaccurate program records, undercut the City’s ability to assess the effectiveness of the Homebase program and the individual providers. The audit also revealed lengthy delays in HRA’s fiscal reviews of its Homebase contracts and its failure to recoup more than $2.2 million in advance payments 16 months after one group of Homebase contracts ended.
In response to the findings, Stringer made 19 recommendations, including calling on HRA to strengthen its monitoring controls to ensure that it conducts two formal case file review cycles annually and to ensure that its case file review summaries are scrutinized for accuracy and sent to the providers in a timely fashion. The comptroller also called on HRA to improve tracking of the clients who return to Homebase after their cases are closed to better measure the effectiveness of services the City is providing New Yorkers enrolled in the program.
“We are in the middle of a mounting homelessness crisis, with thousands of families struggling in our shelters. While the City is spending more money than ever before on services that are supposed to help people overcome and prevent homelessness, we are not seeing the reductions in homelessness that we should. This audit presents a damning example of the poor management and failures that plague the City’s approach to this ballooning crisis,” Stringer added. “There’s a human cost to the City’s failures. If we don’t keep track of the resources that are intended to help vulnerable New Yorkers, the very people we must lift up fall through the cracks. In the fight against homelessness, every penny counts. The City needs to step up and ensure these programs are working and that no dollar is being wasted.”