New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formed an emergency task force to investigate so-called three-quarter houses for exploiting addicts and homeless people by taking kickbacks on Medicaid fees for drug treatment while forcing them to live in squalid, illegal conditions, the New York Times reports. On Sunday, the Times examined the abuses by the operator of some of the most troubled three-quarter houses. The mayor called on the state to increase the shelter allowance it gives single people receiving public assistance. The allowance, which has been $215 a month since 1988, has left many homeless people with no options beyond three-quarter housing. Thousands of people live in three-quarter homes, which fall somewhere between regulated halfway houses and permanent housing. Also called sober or transitional homes, three-quarter homes are an offshoot of outpatient substance abuse treatment for the poor.
The number of such homes has grown over the past decade, as the administration of former mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed to reduce homeless shelter rolls. No one has an exact number of three-quarter homes, which are considered illegal because they violate building codes on overcrowding. No government agency regulates them, even though the city pays landlords the monthly $215 shelter allowance and the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services pays millions of dollars in Medicaid money for the residents' outpatient treatment. The Times story focused on one landlord, Yury Baumblit, a two-time felon accused by tenants and former employees of treating poor people as instruments for bilking the government.