Homeless Issue Needs a Year-Round Focus

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo haphazardly deemed that all of the homeless must be taken off the streets when temperatures dropped below freezing last winter, he created confusion.

Some localities said they weren’t prepared and didn’t have the resources to honor and enforce such a policy. Others questioned the legality, pointing out that being homeless is not a crime and that law enforcement can only act if a person appears to be in imminent danger or is displaying signs of mental illness.

Family Shelter Entrants Come Predominantly From a Few Clustered Neighborhoods

Data provided by the Department of Homeless Services show that in 2015, family shelter entrants originated mostly from a few areas of the City. The zip codes from which the largest number of families became homeless are in the South and Central Bronx, Brownsville, East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant.

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These trends do not differ widely from data collected over a decade ago, but continue to highlight the role of poverty and high rents in contributing to homelessness among families with children. Rents in New York City increased across the board between 2010 and 2014, with some neighborhoods (like the South Bronx and parts of Central Brooklyn) seeing increases upwards of 25 and 30 percent.[1] At the same time, incomes have remained stagnant in many of these same neighborhoods.

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These data highlight the need to alleviate the pressure of rising rents, preserve existing affordable housing stock, build new housing affordable to those with the lowest incomes, and allocate existing affordable housing resources to those that are literally homeless and at immediate risk of homelessness.

A full range of solutions, including allocating greater numbers of NYCHA public housing units, Section 8 vouchers, and HPD units to homeless families, as well as establishing a right to counsel are detailed in our 2016 State of the Homeless report.

 

[1] Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey, as downloaded from: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

The Return of American Hunger

By a handful of indicators—unemployment rates, overall economic growth, even average hourly earnings—the U.S. economy isn’t doing so badly right now.

And yet, when it comes to the number of Americans who go hungry, it’s almost like the recovery never happened. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” and in 2006, the year before the housing market stumbled, the USDA estimated that fewer than 10.9 percent of American households were food insecure. By 2009, that figure had spiked to 14.7 percent. And now? As of 2014, the most recent year on record, 14 percent of all American households are not food secure. That’s approximately 17.4 million homes across the United States, populated with more than 48 million hungry people. By the time the USDA reports its 2016 figures in September 2017, new food-stamp restrictions could make that number higher.

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