So far, a new task force in New York has moved more than 200 at-risk people out of so-called “three-quarter homes” — to a recently built Sleep Inn hotel in Brooklyn. A New York Times investigation earlier this year put a national spotlight on the largely unregulated, overcrowded dwellings for homeless individuals, which are something between halfway houses and permanent housing. The Times article prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to create an emergency task force on illegal housing at the end of May.
The hotel solution is only temporary, and the Times reports this week that remaining three-quarter houses are still crowded and taking in new residents.
Problems with three-quarter houses have built up for decades, exacerbated by the housing crisis and the policies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who pushed to reduce shelter rolls. Even though the homes violate building codes, they now fill a crucial housing gap for people who have nowhere else to go, often coming out of substance-abuse treatment or prison. State parole officers and city drug court judges sometimes require people to live in three-quarter houses.
To make matters trickier, it can be difficult to identify three-quarter homes, which tend to open and close quickly. “We’ve inherited a mess,” [task force member Steven] Banks told the newspaper. “But nonetheless, there are solutions that can be implemented, and we’re pursuing those.”
The Times reports that “advocates estimate there are hundreds [such shelters],” and that in the last couple months, “the city has inspected 64, after singling out dwellings receiving housing payments for 10 or more unrelated adults on public assistance.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.