New York Focus, March 29, 2021
The legislature is pushing for a statewide rental assistance program that advocates say would be one the largest efforts to combat homelessness in recent memory.
After more than five years living in New York City’s homeless shelter system, Milton Perez has one goal: “to get the hell out.”
The Bronx native has spent much of the last decade being shuffled between different shelters. In recent years, he has applied regularly for permanent housing through the city’s affordable housing lottery, without success.
“Since I’ve been in the system, I’ve developed hypertension, high blood pressure, insomnia, sleep apnea … and that’s nothing compared to what others have,” Perez told New York Focus, also citing physical injuries, anxiety, and depression. “Not only physically but mentally, this is a very stressful environment.”
The indignities of the shelter system have fueled Perez’s activism with VOCAL-NY, a grassroots group organizing vulnerable New Yorkers. He joined the group about a year ago after years of frustration with being “warehoused in toxic environments,” he said.
In the coming days, work by housing organizers like Perez could culminate in one of New York’s most ambitious programs to create stable housing for the tens of thousands across the state who are experiencing homelessness or are threatened with eviction.