Coalition Testifies on the State of Single Adult Homelessness in NYC

Despite the recent progress in reducing homelessness among families with children, New York City continues to see near-record levels of single adult homelessness. There were 18,236 single adults sleeping in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters each night in September 2021, a staggering 97 percent more than a decade ago. Due to systemic racism in housing and economic policies, people of color are disproportionately represented among the homeless population: 86 percent of single adults in DHS shelters in Fiscal Year 2021 were Black or Latinx. Furthermore, an estimated 68 percent of single adults sleeping in DHS shelters have a disability.

On December 6, 2021, the Coalition for the Homeless submitted joint testimony with The Legal Aid Society to the New York City Council’s Committee on General Welfare regarding the state of single adult homelessness in New York City.

Our testimony chronicled the challenges faced by homeless single adults in NYC, including the City’s misguided efforts to transfer the vast majority of single adults from hotel-based shelters to congregate shelters this past summer, as the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant spread across the city. We also made policy recommendations to end the criminalization of unsheltered homelessness, create significantly more housing for homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers, end housing discrimination based on arrest and conviction records, and protect the rights of supportive housing applicants and tenants. As we wrote in our testimony,

The City must immediately cease all activities that criminalize unsheltered homelessness, while meeting the immediate needs of homeless New Yorkers and providing them with ready access to stable, permanent affordable and supportive housing options. Many people on the streets who are not interested in the main shelter system would be willing to accept the offer of a low-threshold shelter placement like a Safe Haven or stabilization bed, and the City must make more of these options readily available. … The City must identify and eliminate all bureaucratic barriers that prevent people from moving off the streets and into homes of their own.

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark legal right to shelter, it is clear that we must build upon that baseline of decency by embracing a right to housing. Perhaps the most enduring lesson from the past eight years is that substantial progress in addressing homelessness will remain elusive if there continues to be a disconnect between housing and homelessness policies. Future City housing plans must dedicate significantly more units to homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers to help people avoid or exit homelessness.

We encourage the Council to use the remaining weeks of the session to build upon this progress and help connect other homeless New Yorkers to permanent housing. In particular, we urge the Council to pass three pieces of pending legislation: Intro. 2047, Intro. 147, and Intro. 2176. The Fair Chance for Housing Act, Intro. 2047, would prohibit housing discrimination in rentals, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City on the basis of arrest or conviction records. … Intro. 147 would shed light on supportive housing referrals, interviews, and rejections in order to deter discrimination and identify barriers to accessing supportive housing. Intro. 2176 would equip supportive housing tenants with a bill of rights so they are empowered to assert those rights and know where to turn if they encounter issues – recognizing the importance of long-term housing stability.

Read the full testimony here.