An Ex-D.J. Has a Housing Voucher. He Nonetheless Can’t Discover a House.

Just a few many years in the past, Cornelius Parker was residing a spectacular life, touring the world as a D.J. and performing with hip-hop pioneers like D.J. Kool Herc. At present, he squats in a third-floor house in Harlem with no electrical energy, sleeping on the ground.

Mr. Parker, 57, has confronted many hardships. However he additionally blames his plight on a New York Metropolis program that promised to assist him discover a secure residence till one employee’s error put him able the place he left his house and needed to reside in his automotive till he discovered the place the place he now stays illicitly and precariously.

“The identical system that claims ‘Come to us, we forestall you from being homeless’ — they made me homeless,’” he mentioned.

The severity of the town’s homelessness downside is mirrored within the document variety of individuals residing within the shelter system, which has swelled previous 70,000, and the ever-dwindling variety of inexpensive houses.

Mr. Parker’s plight, housing advocates mentioned, painfully illustrates a much less apparent a part of the issue: dysfunction within the programs that are supposed to hold individuals from shedding their houses within the first place.

The top of pandemic-era housing packages, together with a moratorium on evictions, has resulted in additional New Yorkers dealing with the prospect of shedding their houses. That flood of individuals has strained a metropolis community of presidency businesses and nonprofits meant to assist individuals keep housed, as businesses concurrently cope with staffing shortages.

Metropolis officers say breakdowns of the type Mr. Parker has endured should not consultant of their general efforts, which in lots of instances efficiently hold individuals out of shelters, off the streets or each.

Nonetheless, some New Yorkers have encountered tough conditions. Tenants have mentioned they confronted eviction after a metropolis rental-assistance program did not make funds. Homeless households have been moved right into a constructing mired in a authorized dispute that compelled them out once more.

Landlords and brokers routinely discriminate in opposition to individuals attempting to pay for housing with authorities subsidies, housing advocates cost, and the town lacks a strong oversight system. Fewer than one-fifth of practically 8,000 emergency federal housing vouchers that have been not too long ago issued to New York Metropolis had been used to get an house, the information group Metropolis Limits reported in October.

Mr. Parker’s path to squatting was, he mentioned, hastened by employees members of a metropolis program known as Homebase, who in his view improperly urged he go away an house the place he was residing in order that he may get authorities assist shortly.

This system, run collectively with nonprofit organizations, is supposed to perform as a hub the place New Yorkers can discover providers to assist them keep of their residence or discover a new one. Low-income individuals or these susceptible to turning into homeless can go to workplaces in all 5 boroughs to acquire vouchers, discover residences and prepare for jobs. Persons are referred to Homebase by means of authorities businesses, politicians and even from 311 calls, and Homebase does outreach at neighborhood occasions.

Metropolis officers mentioned demand has elevated for the Homebase providers, to greater than 25,000 households in the latest fiscal 12 months.

However some New Yorkers who’ve sought assist from Homebase have reported irritating issues: Purposes can take as much as a 12 months to course of, caseworkers are generally unreachable for weeks at a time and purchasers get contradictory directions on eligibility necessities, in response to the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a nonprofit public protection agency that represents Mr. Parker and others.

The group mentioned Mr. Parker’s ordeal was an excessive instance of how these flaws, together with landlords’ resistance to accepting vouchers, exacerbate the town’s homelessness downside.

Mr. Parker’s predicament started when a buddy he was staying with mentioned he needed to hire the room to some family members as an alternative, Mr. Parker mentioned. In accordance with court docket filings, the buddy mentioned Mr. Parker owed greater than $9,000 in hire, which Mr. Parker disputes. On the time, Mr. Parker was recovering from surgical procedure to take away a tumor and had been in a automotive accident that ripped the ligaments in his leg and left him unable to work.

When an eviction case was filed in opposition to him in January 2022, Mr. Parker dug in to combat it. That winter, he utilized for assist from Homebase, and in April, he obtained what felt like promising recommendation from one of many program’s housing specialists: If he agreed on a date when he would go away the house, he would get assist discovering and paying for a brand new place by means of a metropolis voucher program.

Mr. Parker mentioned in court docket that he would go away by July. A month later, nonetheless, a Companies for the Underserved specialist mentioned she had made a mistake and that Mr. Parker didn’t qualify for the help she had in thoughts. She mentioned different packages may take months to entry.

Mr. Parker scrambled unsuccessfully to discover a new place within the weeks he had left. Homebase staff additionally tried to search out him assist. In August, they received Mr. Parker a federal voucher that would assist him pay for a brand new house.

However regardless of every day on-line searches, visits to brokers’ workplaces and several other house viewings, Mr. Parker mentioned he had been unable to search out an house. Landlords routinely stopped responding after he defined that he was utilizing the voucher, which expires subsequent month.

The search has been much more tough as a result of Mr. Parker has bother strolling with out a cane due to his leg harm, additional narrowing his selections to residences he can get out and in of simply. He mentioned he had heard from his Homebase caseworker only a handful of occasions.

Metropolis officers mentioned Mr. Parker’s state of affairs was an anomaly. They mentioned they have been investigating his case, including that greater than 97 % of the 1000’s of people that obtained providers by means of Homebase within the latter half of 2022 had prevented coming into shelters.

In a press release, a spokeswoman for Companies for the Underserved, the group that gives Homebase providers in Manhattan, mentioned the group was “staffed by a compassionate and devoted workforce of human providers professionals who’ve helped 1000’s of New Yorkers forestall homelessness for the reason that begin of the pandemic.”

The spokeswoman acknowledged a “hole in communication” about Mr. Parker’s eligibility for the town voucher. However she mentioned the group “stays dedicated to serving to Mr. Parker discover a everlasting residence,” noting that it had helped him get the federal voucher.

Throughout his search, Mr. Parker moved into inns together with his girlfriend till he couldn’t afford them anymore. Generally the couple slept in his automotive, showering with a bucket of water in empty parking tons. They lastly moved into the house he’s in now when it was vacated by his girlfriend’s sister. The owner is attempting to evict them, court docket filings present.

Across the sleeping baggage in the midst of the room the place Mr. Parker and his girlfriend sleep lie packing containers and baggage, water bottles, sneakers, a ketchup bottle and an assortment of different gadgets. As a result of they don’t have any electrical energy, they chill milk on a window sill outdoors within the chilly winter air. They use flashlights and headlamps to see at night time.

It’s darkish within the room even throughout the day, as a result of the couple has draped sheets and covers over the home windows to forestall individuals from wanting inside.

Mr. Parker has fond reminiscences of his music days. He lights up exhibiting footage on his cellphone of himself spinning turntables or posing with members of the Black Spades, a road gang linked to hip-hop historical past that’s now targeted on neighborhood growth, and of a particular Metropolis Council quotation he obtained in 2017.

However most of his days are hectic. He depends on month-to-month incapacity funds of $822 and tries to boost cash on-line. The one factor that he thinks would assist greater than something is a everlasting residence.