Newark New York homeless, Controversial SOTA Program Exporting Homeless.
New Jersey’s largest city is taking the Big Apple to court to halt its controversial Special One-Time Assistance program that allegedly relocates homeless individuals from New York City to live in often inhabitable conditions – including dilapidated and vermin-infested residences in Newark.
The SOTA program, enacted in 2017, relocates New York City homeless families across the country with a full year’s worth of rent paid up front. In most cases, according to Newark’s complaint, the receiving city is unaware that SOTA recipients are being relocated from New York City.
The suit, which was filed Monday in federal court and names New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, alleges New York City is violating interstate commerce rules by coercing families to sign leases for uninhabitable and at times illegal apartments, ignoring their complaints and issues as well as not letting local officials know where the program is operating.
According to court documents, Newark believes that more than 1,000 families were placed in the city. Although Newark claims it has identified several SOTA recipients who were unlawfully coerced to move to Newark, the complaint says that New York City refuses to disclose the identities of all of the SOTA recipients placed in Newark.
Allegedly, the reason why Newark was made aware of the “coerced migration” scheme was because SOTA recipients have complained directly to Newark.
In one instance, a woman who was relocated to Newark described being pressured to leave a New York homeless shelter after she was told she “had overstayed her time there,” was given only 10 minutes to inspect an apartment and signed the lease online, court documents show.
According to the complaint, during her stay in the property she experienced a number of issues including the collapse of the bathroom ceiling, no heat, a non-working toilet that the landlord told her it was her problem to fix. She also allegedly experienced an infestation of roaches and rodents as well as broken pipes that led to flooding. Her landlord allegedly never addressed the issues when she complained. It was when she allegedly reported the conditions to Newark officials that they inspected the premises and the building was condemned.
In another example provided in the complaint, a mother of three in a shelter said she wanted to stay in New York City but was told the vouchers weren’t sufficient to cover rent. She was then allegedly taken to tour New Jersey homes — her first time in the sate. She also felt pressured to choose one of the apartments, according to the complaint.
After moving in, the mother alleges she experienced a number of power and heat-related problems including that the lights stopped working. Even though she called DHS headquarters, according to the complaint, her calls were never answered.
When she went to the utility company servicing Newark she was told that her apartment was not listed and that no meter was running to her third-floor unit.