Today’s Listen: Counting the Homeless

With more than 63,000 New Yorkers sleeping in shelters each night, record homelessness carries a significant human and financial cost. As the Coalition’s State of the Homeless 2019 report noted, “The number of people in shelters each night is big enough to be New York’s ninth-largest city, at a cost of more than $2.3 billion per year.”

New York City’s right to shelter, which was established through the work of the Coalition’s founders, is an essential component of our safety net – and the reason why we do not have the massive tent encampments found in so many other large cities. But a shelter is not a permanent home, and New York City must do far more to help people move out of homelessness more quickly instead of languishing in shelters for more than a year on average.

To create more permanent housing options for homeless New Yorkers and reduce the need for costly shelters, Mayor de Blasio must follow the House Our Future NY Campaign recommendation to build at least 24,000 new units of deeply subsidized, affordable housing for homeless households through the Housing New York 2.0 plan, and set aside at least 6,000 more units for homeless households through the preservation of already-occupied housing, for a total of 30,000 apartments. Governor Cuomo should also implement the Home Stability Support program through legislation introduced by Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and Senator Liz Krueger to create a State-funded, long-term rent subsidy for households on public assistance who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing due to eviction, domestic violence, or hazardous housing conditions. These permanent housing solutions would be better for both the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and for taxpayers across the state.

Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier recently spoke with Sarah Gonzalez on the NPR podcast Planet Money, which profiled a homeless New Yorker named Chris. As Giselle explained, investing in permanent housing can save money while also reducing homelessness:

“It’s far cheaper to provide housing. Not only is it cheaper, it’s the more humane thing to do. It just makes logical, financial, and moral sense.”

Housing. It costs about $40,000 a year to shelter a single adult like Chris in New York City, and Giselle says that is so much more than what it would cost to help Chris rent an apartment – basically double the cost of renting him an apartment.

“As the City is now spending a greater and greater share sheltering tens of thousands of people, they need to be thinking about solutions to start housing people so that they cannot be spending billions of dollars on shelter costs in perpetuity.”

Listen to the full episode on the NPR website.