Pandemic Causing New York’s Homeless Population to Grow

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were almost 92,000 homeless New Yorkers.

However, now due to a rise in unemployment, opioid use, domestic abuse, and more over the past few months, experts believe that number has grown.

“We’re seeing increases in homelessness now particularly among folks who were very unstably housed to begin with,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director for Coalition for the Homeless. “So folks who maybe were renting rooms or didn’t have a lease in their name. And we’re very concerned about what we might see moving forward once moratoriums end and people with actual leases start to get evicted amidst the economic upheaval.”

September 23rd COVID-19 Virtual Memorial

On September 23rd, several New York City faith leaders and homeless advocacy and services groups held the third virtual memorial service to honor the many homeless and formerly homeless New Yorkers, as well as those serving them, who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you to those who joined us for our memorial services. To watch a recording of the first virtual memorial on May 20th, click here. To watch a recording of the second on June 24th, click here.

Your Rights as a Voter

Can I vote without a permanent address?

YES! In 1984, Coalition for the Homeless filed the lawsuit Pitts v. Black, which guaranteed the right to vote for homeless New Yorkers living in shelters, on the streets, or in welfare hotels.

What do I need when I go to vote?

Nothing. Arrive at your poll site between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on November 3rd for the general election. As long as you registered to vote before the October 9th deadline, you do not need to show identification in order to vote. Ideally, you should vote in the district where you registered or previously voted. However, you can instead vote in the district where you now live by using an affidavit or paper ballot. Voters can also participate in early voting between October 24th and November 1st, but the poll site for early voting may be different. For more information about your poll site, contact the NYC Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

This fall, all New York voters can vote by mail due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. You can select “Temporary illness or disability” as the reason for your request. You can apply for an absentee ballot by October 27th online at or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC. You may apply in-person by November 2nd. Ballots will be mailed beginning September 18th.

What should I do when I enter the poll site?

At the poll site, you will see tables and voting machines set up for your election district and others. At the table for your district, you will be asked to sign next to a facsimile of your signature on an alphabetized, computerized polling list. If your name does not appear on the roster, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot.

Can I vote if I have committed a felony or am currently on parole?

  • If you have committed a felony and have finished your sentence: Your rights have been reinstated and you are eligible to register and vote in this year’s election.
  • If you are currently on parole: Some people on parole can vote, some cannot. If you are unsure, you can check your status online at Even if you are currently not able to vote, you will regain your right to vote at the end of your parole period, and you may register and vote at that time.

What if I have trouble trying to vote?

If your name does not appear on the computerized polling list or you are told that you are not eligible to vote, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot. After November 3rd, the Board of Elections will check its records, and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you are not eligible, along with a registration application for future elections. You may also call one of the numbers listed below for assistance on the day of the election.

For more information or assistance, contact:

NYC Board of Elections: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (toll-free)
NY Attorney General Election Hotline: 1-800-771-7755
Coalition for the Homeless: 212-776-2003

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