Landlord offers apartment to homeless, does not receive promised money

May 3, 2012 8:48:35 PM PDT
Thomas Roberts opened his heart and his home to help a homeless family escape the uncertainty of the streets and the city's shelter system.

"We were in a really bad situation so this was really good we could get away from everything," said tenant Nyraishia Epps.

"Everybody needs a second chance, including myself," said Roberts. "I try to work with people and that's why I try to work with the program."

It was all part of the Advantage Program, federal state and city aid designed to transition homeless families out of shelters.

It offered landlords like Thomas two years of rent to house a homeless family. He was supposed to get $1,400 a month from the city.

But last year, New York State canceled the program and yanked its subsidies. Not long after, Thomas says the rent checks stopped coming.

"By stopping the rent payments, these families are going to end up flooding the shelter system and the landlords who in good faith agreed to house them are left holding the bag," said Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society filed a class action lawsuit to prevent the city from terminating the rent subsidies, it won a temporary block last fall and the city was forced to pay-up.

Just last year, 7 On Your Side, helped two other landlords get $10,000 in back rents after the city was ordered to keep paying, and after our calls, the city finally paid up.

But last January, one more twist. A judge gave the city the right to end the program. Even still Thomas is owed 5 months back rent from the city.

A few days after that interview with Commissioner, Thomas got 3 checks, the $8,000 he was owed by the city.

He got the back rent but he's still faced with a problem facing thousands of landlords evicting the family he was trying to help.

The Legal Aid Society is appealing the Supreme Court decision to end the program. At its peak, the advantage program helped 20,000 households transition out of city shelters.

Without this, there is no long term subsidy policy for homeless families in New York City.

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