Reality Check: Poverty is Pervasive in NYC

The lives of several New Yorkers struggling to survive are profiled in this month’s issue of City Limits. They face an array of obstacles from joblessness to homelessness to navigating the City’s convoluted welfare bureaucracy. Their stories, like so many others, are a reminder that millions of New Yorkers are living in poverty today. Unfortunately, the lives of the poor are not often at the forefront of our political discourse. But as the number of homeless and jobless New Yorkers continues to remain incredibly high, our elected officials need to start focusing more intently on what can be done about pervasive poverty in New York.

Beverly Davis plans to become a police officer. But in the meantime, she has to complete school, work full time and take care of her kids. She is currently living in an Advantage apartment after experiencing homelessness for several months. But now, with the City threatening to end her $765 monthly rental subsidy, her future remains uncertain. Read Beverly’s story here.

Walter Greene went from making ends meet to homelessness last year when the moving company he worked at shut down. Now, he and his wife are living in their third homeless shelter. Their life at the shelter is difficult and Greene’s prospects of securing another job look dim. He has an array of medical issues, including diabetes and high blood pressure, but still he carries on looking. Read Walter’s story here.

Read more stories here.

Homelessness on the Mind

Only one in ten residents thinks the Bloomberg administration is doing a good job of assisting homeless families and individuals. This statistic is among the findings of a new poll released by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness that examines New Yorkers’ views on homelessness. Overall, the news is not good for an administration whose policies on homelessness have run the gamut from controversial to ineffective to downright counter-productive.

The poll also examined the pervasiveness of housing instability by asking respondents if they were worried about becoming homeless. The results are startling. More than one in four New Yorkers is worried about becoming homeless. Among New York’s sub-populations, families with children are more worried about becoming homeless (37.9%) than households without children (22.3%), reflecting the realities of a shelter system that houses more families with children than single adults. Nearly half of Hispanic and one-third of black New Yorkers are worried about becoming homeless, along with 56% of unemployed New Yorkers.

These numbers reflect a reality outside of Wall Street’s gleaming towers, where homelessness has reached levels never seen beforeincome inequality is higher than ever, and regular New Yorkers are struggling to survive amidst high rents, high unemployment and low wages.

Interestingly, in addition to evaluating the City’s performance on homelessness, poll respondents were also asked if they were willing to aid their less fortunate neighbors. It turns out, they are. More than half of the City’s residents (54.6%) supported paying higher taxes to reduce homelessness, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

It’s time for the Bloomberg administration to start listening to the majority of New Yorkers who want real solutions to homelessness. And one of the easiest steps they can take is to immediately allow homeless families to access federal housing resources, including public housing and Section 8.

Learn more about this common sense solution here.

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