NYC Homeless Shelter Population Reaches All-Time High

New York City reached a truly sad milestone recently.

As the Coalition revealed in an October 13th report based on newly-released City data, the number of homeless children and adults residing each night in municipal shelters exceeded 39,000 people for the first time since modern homelessness began more than 25 years ago. At the same time, more than 10,000 homeless families, with more than 16,500 children, reside in homeless shelters each night — the first time the number of homeless families bedding down in municipal shelter has ever exceeded 10,000 families.

The most alarming data revealed in the Coalition’s report is this: During the last City fiscal year, more than 120,000 different New Yorkers, including nearly 44,000 children, slept in municipal homeless shelters. And since FY 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg took office, 45 percent more New Yorkers slept in the municipal shelter system during the year.

In an op-ed published last week in the NY Daily News, Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s executive director, called for Mayor Bloomberg to change his failed homeless policies in order to address this historic crisis in homelessness:

“Simply put, New York City is in the midst of a homelessness emergency and it’s only getting worse….With the economy still reeling — and city unemployment now topping 10% — this crisis will continue to get worse unless the Bloomberg administration changes direction and does so quickly.”

Specifically, Brosnahan once again called on the Mayor to reverse his failed 2005 policy of cutting off homeless New Yorkers from a longstanding priority for Federal housing vouchers and public housing:

“The administration — particularly Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs — argued in 2005 that denying homeless New Yorkers access to Section 8 vouchers and public housing would act as a disincentive to people who might have another housing option with a friend or relative from entering shelter.

“It hasn’t worked out that way. Long before the recession began, the decision to bar homeless New Yorkers from federal housing assistance has led to more families, not fewer, entering and staying in New York City’s shelter system. Now that President Obama and Congress are strengthening the federal voucher program, we should use it to help the neediest New Yorkers.”

The Coalition’s report on New York City’s all-time record homeless shelter population was widely covered by the local news media, with reports by WNBC, NY1 News, WNYC radio, a.m. New York, and the NY Post.

Earlier this month, the Coalition also released a briefing paper revealing that the number of homeless single adults sleeping each night in municipal shelters has also risen dramatically during the past year — and showing that, even before the winter cold arrives, the shelter system is on the verge of running out of beds.

In his October 4th column, NY Daily News columnist Errol Louis wrote about these alarming findings, saying:

“The arrival of autumn’s first chill coincides with a bombshell report, to be released by the Coalition for the Homeless this week, showing that the city’s shelter system is filled to bursting, unable to take in another homeless person.”

In an article for The Huffington Post, Mary Brosnahan called on Mayor Bloomberg to act quickly to avert a tragedy:

“The Mayor needs to acknowledge this crisis and change direction quickly. And before frigid weather arrives, he needs to ensure that New York City has sufficient emergency shelter for the rising number of homeless men and women. Otherwise many homeless New Yorkers will be left out in the cold this winter.”

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