New York Homeless Population Soars to Record 53,000 Per Night in Shelters

The number of homeless people staying overnight in New York City shelters has eclipsed the record-high population reported last year, reaching an average of more than 50,000 people per night, according to a new study.

The annual report released Wednesday by the Coalition for the Homeless paints a bleak picture of the current state of homeless in New York City and offers a series of specific policy recommendations for new mayor Bill de Blasio. 

In the past year, more men, women and children than ever before sought shelter, up 7% from 50,135 people in January 2013 to 53,615 people in January 2014. Another staggering figure: the number of homeless children sleeping in shelters has climbed 8% in the past year, with 22,712 children sleeping in homeless shelters in January 2014. And the average stay for homeless families with children stretched by two months to 14.5 months, another record high.

Also alarming is the number of people who have jobs, but no home. The report found that more than one in four homeless families in city shelters is headed by a working adult; and one of every six homeless single adults is employed. According to city data, the number of working homeless people has increased by 57% from November 2010 to July 2013.

The report blames the city’s homeless crisis on a combination of factors. It cites the “disastrous homeless policies” implemented by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg; the city’s worsening housing affordability; and the growing income inequality gap.

While the coalition’s report rails against Bloomberg-era policies, it praises De Blasio, who has pledged to bridge the income inequality gap.

“We’re just hopeful that we now have an administration that is willing to work toward solving this problem instead of making it worse,” said Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst for the coalition.

Among the specific recommendations for De Blasio, the report calls for restoring long-term housing subsidies for the homeless and creating more permanent housing solutions.

“We just received the report and it highlights the need for additional housing resources for the homeless – a goal that the De Blasio administration shares with the coalition,” said city hall spokeswoman Maibe Ponet in a statement. “We look forward to working with the coalition on implementing comprehensive policy solutions to lift up families and individuals facing crisis.”

The De Blasio administration has budgeted record amounts to pay for the city’s homeless shelter system, according to a fiscal brief by the city’s independent budget office. This was done in part by scrapping several cost-saving programs that Bloomberg had proposed but never implemented.

Ponet added in a phone conversation: “The administration’s focus is on improving the conditions of existing shelters, and trying to move people out of shelters and into permanent housing.” In the mayor’s inaugural state of the city speech he pledged to “preserve or construct nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing”.

Last month, De Blasio’s administration removed 400 homeless children from two city-run shelters cited for deplorable conditions, one of which was featured in a New York Times series about a homeless girl named Dasani.

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