- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed on Wednesday spending $20 billion over five years to combat homelessness by building affordable housing, emergency shelters and supportive housing facilities.

“We will not allow people to dwell in the gutter like garbage,” Cuomo said during his annual State of the State speech in Albany.

Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed spending $10 billion on permanent affordable housing units and $10 billion to provide 6,000 supportive housing beds, 1,000 emergency shelter beds and other homeless services. Supportive housing facilities are run by nonprofit organizations that provide on-site social services.

Cuomo, who earlier this month announced an executive order compelling local authorities to move homeless people off the streets and into shelters when the temperature falls below freezing, acknowledged Wednesday that homeless people may avoid shelters because they are unsafe.

“People have been attacked and victimized in some shelters,” he said. “And some would rather stay outside in the frigid cold than risk entry. And they are right to do it.”

Cuomo said State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder would be responsible for auditing and inspecting the shelters to make sure they are being run safely and efficiently.

“It is imperative that we improve conditions in the shelters and restore the public’s trust in the system,” Cuomo said. “We need a true independent review, inspection and action plan from objective experts to go forward.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose efforts to address homelessness have been criticized by Cuomo’s administration, called Cuomo’s $20 billion plan “a very positive sign.”

De Blasio, who also is a Democrat, said the governor’s proposal to inspect homeless shelters is consistent with the city’s own work to ensure the facilities are safe.

“Our goal is to fix problems,” the mayor said. “We may find some providers who need to be replaced.”

Former New York City Council President Christine Quinn, now the president of WIN, an agency that provides services for homeless women and children, called Cuomo’s plan “a game-changer.”

“It’s clear that the governor understands that any solution requires approaching the issue from a range of angles and including affordable and supportive housing with comprehensive services is absolutely essential to the equation,” Quinn said.


Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this story from Albany.

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