41,000: NYC Homeless Shelter Population Soars to New All-Time Record Highs

Today Coalition for the Homeless released a new report documenting how New York City’s homeless shelter population has grown to over 41,000 people – including 17,000 children – for the first time ever, and analyzing the failed Bloomberg policies behind this alarming rise.

The new report, based on recently-obtained City data, shows that at the end of October 41,204 homeless people slept in the New York City municipal shelter system – the first time ever that the shelter population has reached that level. There were also an all-time record 16,934 children bedding down in municipal homeless shelters, a 10 percent increase since May alone.  The new Coalition report can be found here, and the news release can be found below.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the new findings today:

The number of people in New York City’s homeless-shelter population exceeded 40,000 last week for the first time, capping a rapid rise in homeless children and families since the spring when the city eliminated a rent subsidy program, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

The report by the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, comes as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration faces renewed scrutiny for policies on homelessness that critics say have failed.

“We are at a historic crisis of homelessness in the city,” said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless. “The numbers continue to rise and it is clear evidence of the failures of Mayor Bloomberg’s approach to this problem.” …

“The numbers cited in the coalition’s report are alarming, and clearly indicate the need to take a hard look at how the city is addressing the needs of homeless New Yorkers,” said [New York City Council Speaker Christine] Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat and potential 2013 mayoral candidate. “At this point, the city must be using every available option to reverse this upward trend.”

Mr. Bloomberg set a goal in 2004 of cutting both the number of people who sleep on the streets and use the shelter system by two-thirds by 2009, but neither pledge has been fulfilled.

In the spring, when the city lost state funding for Advantage, the administration immediately stopped admitting new participants. In September, a state judge ruled that the city can end the program for more than 30,000 people currently receiving subsidies. The ruling is on appeal.

Without the subsidy, advocates for the homeless say, thousands will return to the shelter system because they can’t pay rent. Mr. Markee said if the courts allow the city to stop paying the subsidy “we’ll see a wave of homelessness like we haven’t seen in I don’t know when.”

The news release describing the new Coalition report is here:

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2011

Report: Homelessness at Record Levels and Surging as City Poised to Tighten Access to Shelters
Shelter Population Passes 40,000 for First Time as Council Holds Emergency Hearing on Dangerous Department of Homeless Services Proposal

NEW YORK – A new report from the Coalition for the Homeless released today shows homelessness at record levels in New York City and rising rapidly, just as the Department of Homeless Services plans a controversial move to tighten access to the city’s shelter system for single homeless adults. The report shows the citywide shelter count reached 41,204 on October 31st, an all-time high, and crossed the 40,000 threshold for the first time in City history in September.

The data also show the effects of the City’s failure to replace the Advantage program, which ended last Spring, or provide any means for homeless families to move into permanent, affordable housing. Average shelter stays have risen from eight to eleven months over the past year, and have risen 8% since May alone.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said: “The numbers cited in the Coalition’s report are alarming, and clearly indicate the need to take a hard look at how the City is addressing the needs of homeless New Yorkers. At this point, the City must be using every available option to reverse this upward trend. Instead, DHS just announced a new policy that will effectively limit homeless single adults’ access to shelter, which the Council will examine at a hearing tomorrow. Rather than telling people in need of housing to stay away, to truly reduce the homeless population we need proactive solutions such as restoring priority for the homeless for federal housing subsidies.

Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said: “The stunning rise in homelessness this fall makes clear that Mayor Bloomberg’s dangerous experiment with homeless policy has been an abject failure. The Mayor has run 180 degrees away from what previous New York Mayors and cities across the country have proven can work: permanent, affordable housing for qualified homeless families. Instead of cost-effective solutions, the City is now responding to a crisis partly of its own making by erecting new barriers at the shelter door – meaning more homeless on the subways and city streets.”

Major findings of the report include:

• At the end of October there were 41,204 homeless adults and children sleeping in New York City municipal shelters, an all-time record and a 9% increase from October, 2010.

• The total homeless shelter population is 33% higher than when Mayor Bloomberg took office; the number of homeless families is 45% higher.

• The number of homeless children in New York City shelters – 16,934 children at the end of October – has reached an all-time record high, a 10% increase since May when the City eliminated all housing assistance for homeless families.

• Homeless families are staying in the municipal shelter system for longer periods. Average shelter stays have risen from eight to eleven months – a remarkable 28% – over the past year, and have risen 8% between May and September alone.

• The percentage of families entering the shelter system who have been homeless before reached 49% in FY 2011, nearly double the rate before the Mayor ended permanent housing programs for the homeless in 2005.