BY Deborah Perykasz
Independent Living Specialist
Every week, I meet consumers who are experiencing a housing crisis. Since my consumers are disabled, most are unemployed. Most are recipients of DSS, SSI or SSDI who receive between $700 and $1000 per month. Many do not own a computer. Often, these consumers lack family or community support. They lack the ability to advocate for themselves. All these factors place my consumers at a significant disadvantage.
Sadly, most of the apartments that are being constructed in our communities are “luxury” units. Anything that is designated “affordable,” is out of reach for my consumers. When low income housing does become available, it is often in an area where my consumers do not want to live.
For consumers who are on Section 8 waiting lists, it can take a decade to get a voucher. When a consumer finally gets a voucher, it’s almost impossible to find an apartment. In the City of Yonkers, only consumers who are in nursing homes have a chance to get a Section 8 voucher. For consumers who already have a Section 8 apartment, the living standards are often less than acceptable. Moreover, landlords are raising the rents beyond the threshold of what Section 8 considers reasonable, forcing consumers to search for other apartments. Most municipalities who offer Section 8 are not accepting applications. Occasionally, when a municipality does open its Section 8 list, the municipality finds itself flooded with thousands of applications from consumers throughout the country.
By the time consumers find me, they are angry, frustrated and weary. Some are depressed. They can’t understand why this is happening to them. They want to know why their need for low income housing is being ignored. Some consumers are saying, “Maybe I need to leave New York.” I can tell you with certainty, that some are doing that.
For those consumers who choose to stay in this area and weather their housing crisis, it is extremely important for them to seek social support. Support groups are available to address a variety of needs, including housing. Mental health counselors, peer counselors, and members of the clergy can be a valuable resource, especially for consumers who may be facing eviction or homelessness. Scott Smith, WDOMI’s Program Director, is a Social Worker who can address some of the stresses faced.
The Military One Source website has a few good suggestions for consumers:
- Be patient with yourself and try to keep up your routines. Having a schedule for your activities will help to keep you moving forward.
- Reduce your stress. Try to eat healthy meals whenever possible. Get plenty of rest. Try to exercise. Practice meditation, read, keep a journal, and listen to music.
- Focus on the things that you can control and change. Concentrate on what you can accomplish. Feeling like you are in control of something may make it easier to accept what is out of your control.
In my role as Independent Living Specialist/Housing Advocate at WDOMI, I am available to provide information and referral to individuals with disabilities, who, for whatever reasons, require housing. Once a month, on the second Friday at 2 p.m., I conduct a Housing Workshop. Guest speakers are invited to address my consumers about pertinent housing issues. Admission is free.
If you are disabled and need assistance with housing, contact me at WDOMI, 914-968-4717, X.108. Please leave me a message if I am not available. I will return your call promptly.
Thanks to my consumers who share their personal stories with me. You are enriching my life. I hope 2016 brings us closer to persuading our public officials, that in order for human beings to be productive members of society, they must have affordable, safe, accessible and stable housing.