State of the Homeless

State of the Homeless

City Efforts Show Early Progress, but State Must Work with City to Combat Record Homelessness

Coalition for the Homeless Offers Comprehensive Look at Homelessness in New York City, Outlines Steps City and State Can Take Immediately to Reduce Crisis

NEW YORK – The Coalition for the Homeless released today its 2016 State of the Homeless report, a comprehensive look at homelessness in New York City.  The report finds that while some of the City’s efforts to combat homelessness have shown early signs of success, the City and State must work closely together to coordinate anti-homelessness efforts and invest in proven solutions to reducing a crisis that remains at near-record levels.

“New York City has begun to make some initial progress in combatting record homelessness, but the crisis is simply too deep and too many years in the making to solve without a full partner in Albany,” said Mary Brosnahan, President and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless. “Fighting homelessness is not rocket science.  We know what works: Affordable and supportive housing, preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place, and improving shelter conditions to get people off the streets.  These steps are not only effective, they are often far cheaper than the costs of sheltering tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers.”

Key State of the Homeless Findings:

  • A near-record number of individuals and families still sleep in New York City homeless shelters each night—more than 60,400 people, including 24,000 children.
  • Homelessness, which soared during Mayor Bloomberg’s final years in office largely due to his elimination of housing placements and programs, continues to be fueled by rising rents and stagnant wages: Median rents in low-income neighborhoods shot up 26% between 2010 and 2014, while real median household income fell 7%.
  • City efforts are having an effect for homeless families: Permanent housing placements for homeless families soared in FY2015 and the number of families applying for shelter declined, due in part to increased homelessness prevention programs, like increased legal services and eviction prevention efforts. 
  • The number of family members in shelter has declined by 5% over the past year, but this number masks the effect of family move outs, as the number of families found eligible for shelter increased in FY2015.
  • The number of homeless single adults remains at record highs and continues to increase, with over 14,000 single men and women sleeping in New York City shelters each night, underscoring the urgent need to quickly create more supportive housing units.

State of the Homeless 2016 also outlines key steps New York City and State can take immediately to reduce homelessness. 

New York City and Mayor de Blasio must:

  • Move 5,000 families annually into permanent housing utilizing NYCHA public housing, Section 8 vouchers, and HPD units – including 2,500 placements into NYCHA and 2,500 placements utilizing Section 8 and HPD units;
  • Increase placements of homeless families using City subsidies to 2,500 households per year;
  • Increase subsidized and supported housing placements for homeless single adults, particularly by adding at least 500 new scattered-site units of supportive housing this year;
  • Convert all cluster site apartments currently used for emergency shelter back to affordable, rent-regulated permanent housing, and prioritize homeless families to stay in those units deemed safe and habitable;
  • Open a minimum of 200 additional low-threshold “safe haven” shelter beds to help immediately move the most vulnerable women and men off the streets;
  • Enact and fund a “Right to Counsel” law for low-income tenants facing eviction in Housing Court; and
  • Ensure that all homeless shelters are safe, up to code, properly staffed, and provide an effective alternative to the streets.

Albany and Governor Cuomo must: 

  • Along with the Legislature, act immediately to execute an agreement, as required in the State budget, to get nearly $2 billion in supportive and affordable housing funds out the door and available for use in creating new supportive housing units;
  • Ensure that the agreement includes at least 500 State-funded scattered-site supportive housing units to be opened by March 2017 for homeless New Yorkers living with mental illness and other disabilities, with at least another 500 such units to be opened by March 2018;
  • Immediately issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) needed to distribute all available appropriated funds to support the first 6,000 units of supportive housing proposed in the Executive Budget;
  • Enter into a fourth New York/New York Agreement with the City of New York to codify a long-term supportive housing plan for 15,000 State-funded and 15,000 City-funded supportive housing units in New York City to be opened in the next fifteen years;
  • Immediately approve the City of New York’s plan for youth facilities fund savings to be invested in rental subsidy programs;
  • Reverse harmful State cuts to New York City’s emergency shelter system, and help fund new lower-threshold “safe haven” shelter beds in his 2017-18 Executive Budget by sharing equally with the City in the non-federal cost of temporary housing;
  • Increase funding for homelessness prevention by raising public assistance rent levels, expanding eligibility to domestic violence survivors for critical prevention programs like FEPS, and raising FEPS rent caps to the HUD-approved Fair Market Rent levels in his 2017-18 Executive Budget; and
  • Coordinate with the City on shelter inspections and help provide much-needed resources to address outstanding issues such as major capital repairs and building systems as quickly as possible.