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NYC housing for very low income people with disabilities?
August 5, 2008 12:36 PM   Subscribe

My mother needs to find a new place to live. The house we currently live in will be set to go up for sale early next year. But repairs need to be made first, so my family would like us both to move ASAP. I’m looking at a move to Queens, but my mother has Multiple Sclerosis and has a limited income. All she has are her Social Security disability payments each month, which only come to about $600-700, and food stamps. I can’t afford to take her with me.

We’re currently living in Brooklyn, and that’s where she prefers to stay. She can’t get into those HUD housing lottery buildings because she doesn’t meet the minimum income level for a “low-income” apartment. Heh.

The city’s Section 8 application list has been closed since May ’07 (we’ve been looking since about July '07 - damn), so that’s out as an option. Public housing is likely out too, because the projects can be wildly dangerous, and you have no choice where they send you. You can only select two preferred boroughs, with no choice of buildings. There’s one housing project in a decent area where she has friends, but there’s absolutely no guarantee she’d wind up there. I wouldn’t want my mother sent to Brownsville or Jamaica. If anything dangerous would happen, she can't move fast to avoid it. Nevermind the potential of a years-long waiting list.

She’s contacted the MS Society and spoken to a social worker at the center where she goes for physical therapy. We haven’t found many options that aren't for senior citizens. What we have found are a building in Coney Island (Friendship, I think) she might try. And the Bishop Boardman building in Park Slope, which she is applying to tomorrow.

She needs a first floor apartment or a building with a reliable elevator. We currently live on the second floor. It’s hard for her to climb stairs, especially since she uses a walker to get around and has trouble taking it up and down. I assist her with things (big reason I still live with her), but she’s actually quite independent. She doesn’t need any sort of intense care type of situation. She uses the MTA Access-a-Ride, and she goes out frequently – an MS group, physical therapy, occupational therapy, classes, and sometimes doctor visits. She’s been with the same neurologist for over 25 years. And all her friends and family are here; moving someplace else all alone wouldn’t really be feasible.

What other options are there for someone who is very low-income and disabled as far as NYC housing is concerned? Is there any way to weasel somebody who isn’t a domestic violence victim or protected witness onto the Section 8 list? Brooklyn is highly preferred, but any suggestions are helpful. Since all her doctors and activities are in Brooklyn, it can't be far flung like Inwood.

Her sisters are the ones selling this house, and so far they’ve been way less than helpful. Suggestions included dumping her into the Staten Island trailer park, sending her out of state, or sending her to Queens with me. (I would if I could, but I can’t). One is harassing my mother a bit lately because she wants to get money from the sale already. The other lives in a million dollar totally redone house. Anyhow, Mom and I are determined to find her someplace decent where she can maybe even get one of those motorized scooters to make her even more independent.

I'm sure there are stones we haven't turned yet, so I come to all of you.

I looked at these already: http://ask.metafilter.com/52870/What-are-the-various-governmentsubsidized-housing-programs-in-New-York-City
http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/7967 but they don't really help much, as the circumstances are different.
posted by cmgonzalez to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
How old is your mother? Have you spoken to anyone at the Department for the Aging? 311 will connect you to them.
posted by The Straightener at 12:40 PM on August 5, 2008


She's only 48. Lots of buildings are off limits to her due to age restrictions.

I just found something about "Section 811". Does anyone know where to apply for this in NY? Going to see what I can find, but thought I'd add it here.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:50 PM on August 5, 2008


Yeah, that's a tough age, doesn't qualify you for much.

When we had clients that kind of fell through the cracks like this in Philly there was always the boarding house network. Down here boarding houses/personal care homes have to register with the state and usually have some type of staff, maybe a nurse, a nurse's aid on duty during the day hours, sometimes around the clock. They cook meals for the entire house and can dispense medication, but part of the deal is that you sign over payee-ship of your SSI and pay most of your money to the house, usually they let you keep like $60 bucks for the month, which was a deal breaker for a lot of my clients. But if you don't smoke, drink or do drugs, it's honestly not so bad because everything is including in the room and board charge.

Now, despite being licensed by the state, some of these places can be real dumpholes so I would recommend inspecting them personally and meeting the owner/operator before leaving your mom there. However, the upside here is that usually you can make same day arrangements with these places if they have an opening, there's no waiting lists or anything.

I don't know how things work in NYC but ask a social worker about boarding house/personal care home options, if they're experienced in mental health or elder care they will know what you're talking about.
posted by The Straightener at 12:58 PM on August 5, 2008


Full disclosure: this is a self-link to my own web site, a directory of disability resources for New York City. I am not a social worker, this is not an exhaustive list, this is only what I've cobbled together in my spare time. Check out Disabled NYC: Housing and Independent Living. Hope you find something that will help there. Good luck.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:13 PM on August 5, 2008


Best of luck with your mom. That's a tough situation for both of you. Being not-elderly with no children under 18 can leave one falling through the cracks. Too bad her sisters are not being helpful or compassionate. Are you the only child?

You might want to check out the message boards at But You Don't Look Sick which is run by and for people with "invisible illnesses" such as MS. Someone there who has BT, DT may be able to give you advice or leads.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2008


CIDNY has a searchable database of accessible housing. I've never used it, so I don't know how comprehensive it is, or how affordable the housing is. The staff there might be able to give you some advice or resources. CUCS might also have useful resources, though I know them primarily through their work for people with mental disabilities.

I think a lot of people on SSI live in crowded situations with roommates, quite frankly.
posted by Mavri at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2008


"Public housing is likely out too, because the projects can be wildly dangerous, and you have no choice where they send you. You can only select two preferred boroughs, with no choice of buildings. There’s one housing project in a decent area where she has friends, but there’s absolutely no guarantee she’d wind up there. I wouldn’t want my mother sent to Brownsville or Jamaica. If anything dangerous would happen, she can't move fast to avoid it. Nevermind the potential of a years-long waiting list."

Apply anyways. When you're in this situation you need to up your odds of getting something acceptable by spreading your eggs around in a lot of baskets. If you get the building you want you're golden and if you don't you aren't any worse off then you would have been if you didn't apply. I probably wore out a couple pens and chewed up enough time to build a canoe when I was helping my dad in a similar situation.
posted by Mitheral at 2:33 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know what? Your relatives can dang well wait. Stay put until THEY help your mom find accomodations. If they start playing hardball contact the media. It would make a lovely story....
posted by konolia at 3:50 PM on August 5, 2008


Yes, I'm her only child, so we've been working together on this. I'm combing through whatever I can find and making a million calls.

Mitheral, I called them today. The waiting list for public housing is at least three years. Especially now with Section 8 being closed to new applicants. Even if we wanted to go that route, this house we're living in might be in foreclosure by then.

Other options I've explored -

-Left a message with HUD regarding applying for the Section 811 assistance. I cannot find any information on how to do this. City agencies I've called have no idea. NYCHA had never heard of it. It's a HUD program, so I called them.

-Called the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. Left a message there too.

-Called the NYCHA (again)

- Looked at the CIDNY database, which I had already. Most buildings have too high of a minimum income level or are in really bad neighborhoods. A few leads, but most rely on being able to get that Section 811 assistance.

As for her sisters, they've supposedly tried to find her housing. To them, that's the trailer park. We sent them an email the other day pointing out what a crappy area that is. It's on a service road that has constant truck traffic. Residents didn't get mail for 2 days last fall because nothing could get through (what if Mom needs an emergency vehicle? She has fallen and hit her head before). There's a swamp next door with West Nile infected mosquitoes, high crime (they had to break up a 100-person near riot back in May), the middle of nowhere, and airline waste from planes landing in Newark frequently drops on the complex.

They sent back a response basically saying it was "a nice quiet neighborhood" with nice people.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:07 PM on August 5, 2008


Oh and I do appreciate the responses so far. It is a tough situation indeed.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:08 PM on August 5, 2008


Try the Support Housing Network. They're very good people who may be able to offer you guidance. You might also look at the list of their member groups (also on the web site) and see if any of those seem like what you need.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:29 PM on August 5, 2008


Many senior affordable housing projects have to set aside a certain number of non-elderly disabled units (NEDS) in order to receive public financing. Although it was 6 years ago, HUD provided NYCHA almost $1.5 million in funds "to non-elderly families with disabilities to make leasing private housing affordable". A search of the NYCHA's website doesn't come up with much info on NEDS in NYC, but you could contact them and try to find out if they have any more info on weather there are any available. Good luck...
posted by brownbeards at 7:27 PM on August 5, 2008


Also, if your mother is really only getting $600-700 in social security disability (SSD), tell her to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). That would bring her up to $744 (unless she has other income or resources, IANYL, etc.). Every little bit helps.

Also, you and she should probably decide where you can compromise. You have a lot of requirements that, realistically, you just won't be able to get. Unfortunately, poor disabled people do not live in nice neighborhoods.
posted by Mavri at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2008


cmgonzalez writes "Mitheral, I called them today. The waiting list for public housing is at least three years. Especially now with Section 8 being closed to new applicants. Even if we wanted to go that route, this house we're living in might be in foreclosure by then. "

I'd still apply as long as it doesn't cost a huge amount of money. If your mother does end up living with you or at the crappy trailer park come February you'll be glad you are 6 months farther up the list.
posted by Mitheral at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2008


Sorry, Mavri, I'm not putting my mother in a shithole.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:57 AM on August 6, 2008


She was denied SSI years ago, by the way.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:58 AM on August 6, 2008


No need to apologize, and I admire your dedication. I was just speaking as someone whose profession has given me the opportunity to advocate for the rights of hundreds of poor disabled people in New York City. I'm therefore pretty familiar with the unfortunate realities they face. I hope your mother will be the exception, as I would hope for anyone's mother.

You didn't mention that you'd checked out CUCS. Their website indicates that they house more than just mentally disabled people.
posted by Mavri at 12:33 PM on August 6, 2008


I'm aware that these kinds of situations are tough and it's not something you can be very picky with, but I'm really trying to aim higher for now and just try and find all the possible options we can work with.

I hadn't checked out CUCS yet. I must've missed that link initially. Got it now.

I've been playing phone tag, getting sent in circles, and sending out many, many emails trying to gather how my mother can apply for Section 811. Sadly, every single NYC office I've called between yesterday and today has never heard of it, even though it's been an independent program since 1991, and many buildings in the CIDNY database accept it. The Office for People with Disabilities had never heard of it!

The HUD people have not returned my calls yet.

We're thinking of going to our Congressional Rep next, if we don't get a response in a week's time from at least some of the agencies and city officials I've contacted.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:49 PM on August 6, 2008


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