Number of NYC Homeless Families Hits Modern-Day Record

Right before the holidays, the Coalition released alarming new public data showing that, at the end of November, there were 9,720 homeless families sleeping in New York City municipal shelters – the highest number since modern homeless began nearly three decades ago. The Coalition’s policy brief can be found here.

This tragic milestone was reached as New York Governor David Paterson is proposing drastic cutbacks in homelessness prevention and housing programs – a summary of the Governor’s misguided proposal to cut more than $11 million in funding for critical homeless programs can be found here.

Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s executive director, said in our news release (full text below): “The recession in New York is unfortunately just beginning, but already we have surpassed the all time record high of family homelessness in New York City. This data should sound an alarm in City Hall and Albany where Governor Paterson has proposed slashing funding for homeless services in New York City.”

The Coalition’s report triggered widespread news coverage, with strong reports in the New York Times and NY1 news. WNBC’s Gabe Pressman also wrote a powerful essay on his blog.

Following is the Coalition’s complete news release:

New Data Shows Highest Number of Homeless Families in NYC Recorded History

Record High Comes as Governor Paterson Threatens to Cut off City Funds for Homeless Prevention

New York – Data released by the Coalition for the Homeless today reveals that at the end of November there were 9,720 homeless families sleeping in the New York City municipal shelter system, the highest number since the City began reporting this data more than 25 years ago.

The data, contained in the New York City Department of Homeless Services Emergency Housing for Homeless Families Report (attached) shows homelessness soaring 13% as the recession deepened over the past six months from 8,607 homeless families in municipal shelters at the end of May to 9,720 families at the end of November.

“The recession in New York is unfortunately just beginning, but already we have surpassed the all time record high of family homelessness in New York City. This data should sound an alarm in City Hall and Albany where Governor Paterson has proposed slashing funding for homeless services in New York City,” said Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

“We have never seen family homelessness at this scale in New York City history. While the fiscal crisis is real, we cannot balance New York State’s budget by cutting critical services to combat family homelessness,” said New York City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio, Chairman of the Council’s General Welfare Committee.

Governor Paterson’s proposed Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 would eliminate $11.4 million in state funding for homeless prevention and the construction of supportive housing in New York City as well as reduce funding for families headed by disabled individuals who depend on Supplemental Security Income for basic living expenses.

“The Governor talks a lot about shared sacrifice, but so far we have seen him only ask poor and middle class New Yorkers to share in the pain. If the Governor was willing to ask wealthy New Yorkers to pay just a little more, we could get rid of these cuts and a range of taxes aimed squarely at poor and working class New Yorkers,” said Brosnahan.

The Governor’s budget eliminates funds for eviction prevention and programs to help homeless New Yorkers who are disabled secure housing and federal disability benefits, and sharply reduces funding for supportive services for families leaving shelter – including funds for homelessness prevention programs, State funds to support City adult shelters, and operating subsidies for more than 2,300 permanent supportive housing apartments. In addition cuts to the Homeless Housing Assistance Program will mean fewer units of supportive housing while a proposed cut in state funding to SSI recipients will leave homeless New Yorkers with mental and physical disabilities with less money for basic needs.

An itemized chart of proposed cuts is available by request.

The previous record number of homeless families in shelter was recorded a year ago, when 9,500 homeless families were in shelters each night.

As Coalition for the Homeless has previously reported, according to City data, in recent months the number of new homeless families entering municipal shelters has reached all-time record levels. In September, an all-time-record 1,464 new homeless families entered the municipal shelter system. And in November, an additional 1,343 new homeless families entered the shelter system.

Altogether, the past five months (July through November) have seen the highest number of new homeless families — more than 1,300 families each month — entering the municipal shelter system in the 25 years that the City of New York has recorded this data.

During the current decade the number of homeless families and the total homeless shelter population have increased dramatically in New York City. At the start of the decade, there were 5,000 homeless families in shelter each night and the total homeless shelter population was 22,800 people. At the end of November there were 9,720 families in municipal shelters and the total homeless shelter population was an estimated 36,655 people.