Greed Turns Privately Run Homes For Recovering Addicts Into Rat-Infested Drug Dens (VIDEO)

“I’m calling from 692 New Lots,” Daniel Puff explains.  “I’m told that the Marshall is coming to close the house down.” He turns to his roommate. “She says they’re doing apartment one.” “What’s apartment one?” the roommate asks. “That’s what I’m saying,” Puff replies. “I don’t know.”

“Apartment one” turns out to be the downstairs unit, so the men living upstairs won’t get evicted until tomorrow.

The New York Times reports Puff and his roommates were living in one of an estimated 600 unregulated “three quarter houses” in Brooklyn, N.Y. Also called “sober homes,” three quarter houses are meant to provide support to recovering addicts as they transition from rehab programs (halfway houses) to independent living. While living with others who strive to stay clean and sober, residents attend treatment programs, look for jobs, and receive training and counseling. Newly released prisoners and homeless people are also often referred to these places.

Three quarter houses often have websites with cheerful, optimistic-sounding names like “New Hope” or “New Life.” When recovering addicts are about to be released, their hospitals and treatment centers refer them to these places, and the U.S. government pays $215 per month to the people running these “programs.” Alas, the reality is far more grim. According to the New York Times’ investigation, New York City’s three quarter houses are unregulated and prone to fraud and abuse.

The homes, often decrepit and infested with vermin, overflow with bunk beds and people. Exits are blocked and fire escapes nonexistent. The homes are considered illegal because they violate building codes on overcrowding.  Many have become drug dens, where people seem almost as likely to die of overdoses as they are to move on to a home on their own.

Daniel Puff’s landlord, Yury Baumblit, runs six of these so-called three quarter home “programs” and turns out to be a “hustler and two-time felon” with a bad gambling habit. And it turns out he pocketed the $215 per month the government was paying for Puff and his roommates instead of paying it to the building’s landlord. Not only that, Baumblit got caught referring his tenants to “treatment programs” run by cronies who gave him kickbacks.

Puff told The New York Times he’s struggled since he first got in trouble and thrown in jail when he was 14 years old.

“My process shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, but it is because I was placed into New Lots.”

Sadie Billinger, a counselor’s assistant at VIP Community Services adds:

“For a person in recovery, such as Danny, nine times out of 10, you don’t have anyone to go to, to stay with, because either they don’t trust them, or, they want him to use with them. And he’s trying to avoid that. Danny wants to stay clean.”

To make matters worse, recovering addicts like Puff who want to keep their housing, but get out of dangerous, substandard three quarter homes like Baumblit’s are often told that if they want better housing options, they’ll need to start using again:

“There was actually places that said, oh, well, you might as well relapse so you can get into this place. Are you serious? I’m not relapsing so I can get put into another program. I’m not going through that again.”

After the New York Times‘ scathing report came out on Saturday, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that he’s forming an emergency task force to investigate three quarter houses that exploit recovering drug addicts, homeless people and others. At a press conference, DeBlasio told reporters:

“We will not accept the use of illegally subdivided and overcrowded apartments to house vulnerable people in need of critical services.”

The New York Times adds that the issue of fraud and abuse in these three quarter homes got out of hand as the previous (Republican!) mayor went on a cost-cutting binge.

The number of such homes has grown over the past decade, as the administration of the previous mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, pushed to reduce homeless shelter rolls.

Alas, just shutting down these three quarters homes isn’t the solution, because that would leave thousands of people homeless. Also, a $215 a month housing allowance is a pittance for an expensive city like New York. It’s about time the local, state and federal governments raised the amounts given for public assistance to a more realistic level. But as long as Republicans are involved, that’ll never happen.

Daniel Puff told people at his recoverysupport group  meeting:

“I’m just trying to be positive, but as of the 16th, the place I live at, which was a three-quarter house, is shutting down.”

Luckily, he managed to move to another three quarters house that isn’t run by Baumblit, who is now being sued on behalf of his victims by MFY Legal Services.

Daniel Puff wrongfully evicted from three quarter house.

Here’s the video from the New York Times‘ report, with Daniel Puff getting wrongfully evicted from a three quarter house run by convicted felon Yury Baumblit.

Photo with Daniel Puff getting evicted from from a three quarter house in New York City:Video screen grab/New York Times.