TODAY’S READ: The Road to Ending Homelessness

As highlighted in a New York Daily News essay, the United to End Homelessness plan details how the next NYC mayor can and should embrace housing-based solutions to record homelessness.

Today’s New York Daily News op-ed spotlights a newly-released plan by the United to End Homelessness coalition, which includes Coalition for the Homeless and on which we’ve written about here. The essay was written by Shola Olatoye of Enterprise Community Partners, one of the more than 100 organizations making up the coalition, and calls for the mayoral candidates to address specifically the city’s homelessness crisis.

The next mayor of New York City will inherit quite a lot: a growing local economy, historically low crime rates, shiny new developments peppered throughout the city — and perhaps most importantly, an unprecedented homelessness crisis.

Tonight, roughly 57,000 New Yorkers will sleep on the street or in a shelter, an all-time high. The number of homeless families in the city’s shelter system has risen a staggering 73% since 2002. There are currently enough homeless kids in the city to fill Madison Square Garden and still leave a few thousand for the Barclays Center.

While there are several reasons for this spike, the primary culprit is a lack of decent, affordable housing, especially for the lowest-income New Yorkers. Median rent in the city has increased by almost 9% over the past half-decade while wages have dropped by about 7% after adjusting for inflation.

Today, roughly half of low-income New Yorkers pay more than 50% of their monthly income on rent, often leaving them one paycheck away from losing their home.

The op-ed than goes on to discuss the United to End Homelessness “Roadmap to Ending Homelessness,” and highlights the five key elements of the plan:

First, prevent homelessness before it starts by investing in programs that keep families stably housed. The city’s Homebase program, for example, offers anti-eviction services and short-term financial assistance to families on the verge of homelessness — and has proven to cut in half the number of applications to city shelters.

Second, prioritize a portion of existing housing resources to homeless families. This approach can actually save the city millions by reducing more costly stays in emergency shelter, according to a recent analysis from the Independent Budget Office.

Third, build and preserve homes that are affordable to the city’s lowest-income families — meaning they earn less than half of the city’s median income, or around $37,000. Today, just one in four rental units in the city are affordable to low-income families, down from 40% in 2002.

Fourth, continue to invest in supportive housing, which links affordable housing to onsite services for homeless people with mental or physical illness, substance abuse problems or some other disability.

Fifth, create an inter-agency council on homelessness to better coordinate resources and stretch every available dollar for affordable housing.

Homelessness in New York City is not a pool that can be gradually drained; it’s a steady stream, with new families experiencing it every day. As New Yorkers, we need to work together to turn off the spigot, starting with stable, affordable homes for at-risk families and individuals.