Homelessness in New York City is at an all-time high thanks to the chronic housing shortage, wage stagnation (and for low-income workers, wage decline), and Governor Andrew Cuomo and former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s elimination of the Advantage rental assistance program in 2011, among other factors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has poured energy and resources into reversing the trend and backing away from noxious Bloomberg policies such as placing shelter residents in apartment buildings at luxury rent rates with little oversight to ensure service provision, or even basic standards of repair. Money he has committed to providing legal services to people facing eviction, and to creating new voucher programs to replace Advantage have kept the record high shelter population of about 60,000 from creeping even higher, but massive problems persist throughout the shelter system, and the massive load of people in need of shelter means the city is rapidly repurposing hotels for use as shelters, recreating many of the problems of so-called cluster site apartment building shelters—lacking services, lax security—and posing new ones in the process.
On Wednesday, New York City hit a record 59,373 people in shelters overseen by the Department of Homeless Services.
There is no clearer indicator of the homelessness crisis than in the Bronx at the intake center for families with children, where on a recent Saturday morning at 7:30, Larissa Galindo had just gotten off the bus from a temporary shelter.
As Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio competitively pledged new units of supportive housing to help the city confront its historically high homeless shelter population, it looked like their stupid feud might actually help NYC for once.
De Blasio promised funding for 15,000 units of supportive housing in 2015, while Cuomo immediately responded by pledging to build 20,000 entirely new units during his state of the state address. All told, it met community demands for at least 35,000 supportive housing units, and advocates walked away satisfied that the two feuding politicians were at least competing over who could create more supportive housing. But as the city’s shelter population surges to record highs once again, it appears that only one politician has kept up their end of the bargain.