Our History

For a summary of our first 40 years, click here

A young girl, a mom holding a male toddler, a teenage girl, and a teenage boy on a background of green trees and shrubs.

For more than 40 years, the Coalition has developed and implemented humane, cost-effective solutions to New York’s homelessness crisis. Scan the timeline below for highlights of our programs and landmark litigation, and click entries to learn more.



Scattered Site Housing Program

The Coalition creates the Scattered Site Housing Program for people with HIV/AIDS, to help fight discrimination against people living with AIDS by housing them in private market apartments throughout several buildings.

Alternative Pathways

David Dinkins, former member of the NYS Assembly and Manhattan Borough President, is sworn in as the first Black Mayor of the City of New York, and launches “Alternative Pathways” to combat homelessness.

NY/NY Housing Agreement

The first NY/NY Housing Agreement and Housing New York Capital Investment Plan create 26,000 units of housing for homeless and low-income New Yorkers. The City is forced to end the use of welfare hotels that do not comply with the City regulations by the Legal Aid Society. The New York/New York Agreement, a joint State-City initiative, is signed by Mayor Dinkins and Governor Mario Cuomo and — by creating 3,800 units of permanent supportive housing — is the largest effort to date to create housing with on-site support services for homeless individuals living with mental illness.

Our Commitment

The Coalition for the Homeless is unique in providing both lifesaving frontline services and groundbreaking large-scale advocacy.

Protecting Rights

The Coalition’s first legal victory, Callahan v. Carey, established New York City’s right to shelter for homeless adult men – a crucial first step in establishing subsequent victories on behalf of homeless women and children. Since then, the Coalition has won a string of legal victories including securing medically appropriate housing for people living with HIV/AIDS and ensuring the right to vote for Americans without homes. We continue to serve as the court-appointed monitor of the shelter system for single adults and vigorously defend the hard-fought rights we have secured for our city’s poorest and most marginalized. Our large scale advocacy work has established a baseline of human decency and care for those most often marginalized, ignored and forgotten in our society.

Saving Lives

The Coalition’s direct service programs bring lifesaving support to more than 3,500 homeless men, women and children each day. We provide emergency food and blankets, eviction prevention, crisis services and individual advocacy, permanent housing, job training and special programs for homeless youth. Our mobile soup kitchen delivers hot nutritious meals to 1,000 people living rough on the streets every single night without fail, and our Crisis Services programs help more than 10,000 people each year with a wide array of problems ranging from lost identification to impending eviction to a need for mental health services. We are the place where those who have been turned away everywhere else can come and receive compassionate and professional help.

Bridging The Divide

The Coalition is out in the shelters and on the streets every single day, meeting homeless people where they are, and homeless New Yorkers know the doors of our headquarters in Lower Manhattan are always open to them. Our constant frontline presence enables us to effectively amplify the voices of homeless people themselves in fighting for real solutions to homelessness in City Hall and Albany, and our historic role in establishing and defending the rights of homeless men, women and children make our program staff uniquely qualified to help those in need. Simply put, our advocacy informs our programs, and our programs inform our advocacy. This dual focus gives the Coalition its legitimacy as the most trusted source of information for policymakers, academics, the press, the general public and homeless people themselves.

Fiscal Responsibility

The Coalition advances only sensible and fiscally-sound solutions to New York’s crisis of homelessness. Decades of empirical evidence clearly demonstrate that housing-based solutions to homelessness cost taxpayers far less than stopgap emergency measures, and result in homeless individuals and families remaining stably housed for the long term. While the average cost to taxpayers of keeping a homeless family in shelter for one year is about $85,000, helping that family move into permanent housing by providing a temporary rental subsidy costs less than half that amount (about 40 percent). For those with mental illness and other disabilities, the creation of permanent supportive housing units saves New Yorkers $10,000 per person per year.