The couple has lived in a Brooklyn shelter for the last three years. when they tried to move out right before the coronavirus pandemic’s peak, they say city staff dropped the ball.
A tiny dorm-like room at the Clay Family shelter in Greenpoint is what a working couple with a 17-year-old son was hoping to leave April 1 for a nice apartment in Mount Vernon.
They found it on Craigslist. It’s near family and the son’s high school in the Bronx.
The couple, who did not want to be identified, says they were told in March that based on their income, they qualified for the special one-time assistance program, or SOTA.
The city pays the first year’s rent to landlords in and out of the city.
“We worked hard for it,” the woman said. “The housing specialist does absolutely nothing … She did try to persuade us a lot of times to move to Jersey.”
Last year, CBS2 showed some landlords in New Jersey took the money and provided dilapidated housing, but interior pictures of the place the couple was going to move into showed no issues.
The lease was signed March 16.
The family says it immediately filed paperwork with the Department of Homeless Services and the nonprofit contractor HomeLife Services to get the city-issued checks.
Two months later — nothing.
“[Our broker] looked deeper through his colleagues, and they told me that they sent the email to the Clay Family about us,” the woman said. “And when the director finally checked it, she checked it April 18 … She used the pandemic as an excuse.”
DHS would not go on camera but said by email the program is not on pause. With the pandemic, however, it’s more important than ever to ensure households can pay the rent after the year is over.
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner spoke to the landlord off-camera. She says this is the third family she tried to rent the unit to with the SOTA program. Each time, she claims that DHS didn’t come through with the checks.
Days ago, the landlord gave up and rented the unit to a non-SOTA tenant.
Unfortunately, we had to tell the family. The woman started crying when she heard the news.
“It’s hell. It’s literally hell and I just want to wake up from this nightmare,” she said.
IRS records show the nonprofit HomeLife Services makes millions of dollars off its contract with the city every year.
Meanwhile, the family wonders what it will take to have a real place to call home.
A woman who answered the phone at HomeLife Services, which has case managers at the shelter, declined to comment.