State of the Homeless 2013: 50,000

The State of the Homeless 2013 report is available here (PDF).  Following is the news release:

For Immediate Release:  March 5, 2013

50,000: Homeless Count Crosses Grim Milestone In Bloomberg’s Final Year

Legacy of Policy Failures Presents Major Challenge for Next Mayor

21,000 Homeless Children Sleep in Shelters Each Night

NEW YORK – The Coalition for the Homeless released its 2013 State of the Homeless report today showing that for the first time the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping in emergency shelter each night has passed 50,000 – a 61% increase since Mayor Bloomberg took office in January of 2002.  The number of homeless children is now over 21,000 per night, also an all-time high.

“Unimaginable just a few years ago, New York City now has the shameful distinction of being home to more than 50,000 homeless people, including more than 21,000 children,” said Mary Brosnahan, President of the Coalition for the Homeless.  “This is a tragedy of City Hall’s own making.  Had Mayor Bloomberg simply followed the strategy of previous mayors of both parties and prioritized moving the homeless into permanent affordable housing, there would be thousands fewer families and children in our shelter system today.”

As the report shows, the grim numbers are a direct result of the Bloomberg administration’s years-long failure to use proven, cost-effective strategies for moving homeless families into affordable homes.  Under the Bloomberg Administration – which famously promised to cut homelessness by two-thirds – New York City has cut off virtually all Federal housing assistance, including public housing and “Section 8”rental vouchers, for homeless children and families, becoming the first Mayor in modern history to have no housing program for homeless families.

The report’s key findings include:

– Record homelessness:  An average 50,135 people slept each night in city shelters in January, 2013, a 19% increase since last year and a 61% increase from when Mayor Bloomberg first took office.

– Child homelessness continues to surge:  In January, an average 11,984 families, up 73% since Mayor Bloomberg took office, and 21,034 children, up 22% from a year ago and 61% from 2002, stayed in shelters each night.

– Length of stay now over one year:  With few affordable housing options, the average length of shelter stay for families with children is up 10% to a record 375 days.  Families without children averaged a whopping 484 days in shelter.

– The 1980s return:  Single adult homelessness is at its highest level in decades, with an average 10,840 homeless single adults sleeping each night in municipal shelters, an increase of 11% from a year ago and just shy of the all time high (10,903 single adults, March, 1987)

– $$$ - The surge of homelessness comes at steep cost to taxpayers.  Since Mayor Bloomberg took office, the expenses of the NYC Department of Homeless Services have increased by 77%, from $540.2 million (FY 2002) to $955.3 million (projected for the current FY 2013).

The data do not include the thousands of families made homeless by Hurricane Sandy, or those living in separate shelter systems, including shelters for domestic violence survivors and runaway and homeless youth.

The Legacy of Advantage

While the Bloomberg Administration has repeatedly blamed the end of the Advantage program for record homelessness, the report shows that in fact the deeply flawed, time-limited subsidy acted as a revolving door back to homeless shelters even before it was ended.

According to City data, more than 6,500 Advantage families with 14,000 children have returned to the shelter system as of the end of 2012, representing nearly 38% of all former Advantage recipients who lost their time-limited subsidies and did not obtain other housing subsidies.  Today, nearly two out of three (63 percent) families entering the shelter system have been homeless before.

How to Reduce Homelessness

The report includes a call to return to the strategies that previous mayors have used to successfully reduce homelessness in New York City before: moving homeless families from shelters into permanent, affordable housing.  The report called for:

  • Allowing the homeless to once again access Federal and City housing resources including NYCHA and Section 8.
  • The creation of an effective State-City rental assistance program to replace Advantage
  • A renewed “New York-New York” affordable housing construction program that would include new permanent supportive housing for homeless people living with mental illness