Today’s Read: Homeless New Yorkers Are Spending More Time in Shelters Than Ever Before

A record 63,839 people, including 22,938 children, sleep in NYC shelters each night – and the length of time homeless New Yorkers spend in shelters before finding housing has increased. City data show that the average length of stay in shelters rose to 401 days for single adults, 438 days for families with children, and 561 days for adult families in fiscal year 2018 (see page 192 of the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report).

Behind these grim figures are countless stories of New Yorkers who desperately want to move into homes of their own but have encountered barriers due to the lack of truly affordable housing throughout New York City. Even people who are eligible for rent subsidies often struggle to find landlords who will accept their vouchers, or to find any available apartments that are within the rent limits. Those who qualify for supportive housing, which is permanent housing with services for people with mental health, substance use, or other issues, face lengthy waits due to the slow production of supportive housing units that have been promised by the City and the State – largely the result of needless political delays that disrupted the crucial supportive housing pipeline.

In order to help homeless New Yorkers find permanent, stable housing more quickly, the State and City must accelerate their timelines for creating supportive housing. The State must also ensure that the Home Stability Support rent subsidy program is funded in this year’s budget, as it will replace existing rent subsidies and bridge the difference between the inadequate public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. The City must also realign its 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan with the reality of record homelessness by increasing the number of affordable apartments set aside for homeless New Yorkers to 30,000 units, with 24,000 of those units to be created through new construction – as the House Our Future NY Campaign has repeatedly urged the Mayor to do. Together, these commonsense policies would allow more households to quickly move out of shelters and into homes of their own.

Mirela Iverac covered the issue of increasing shelter stays for WNYC/Gothamist:

But as of this January all three populations the city tracks — single adults, adult families and families with children — were staying in shelters longer than under Bloomberg. Single adults now stay an average of 14 months — four months longer than in 2013, and the longest in city history, according to data provided by the de Blasio administration. Adult families and families with children are spending 19 and 15 months on average — three months more than in 2013, and also longer than ever before with the exception of last summer. (The number of families in the shelter system usually rises when children get out of school.)

But advocates said one of the main reasons single adults were spending 40 percent more time in the system was the lack of supportive housing, traditionally one of the main exit strategies for this group. In supportive housing, residents get onsite help for issues ranging from physical and mental health, to substance abuse issues and finding a job

In the past, the state and the city created supportive housing together under the so-called New York/New York agreements. Now, the two are going about it separately. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have committed to building 20,000 and 15,000, new units of supportive housing over a period of 15 years, [but] they aren’t being built fast enough. Last year, the city made fewer placements in supportive housing than at any time in the past fourteen years.

“People are staying longer because it’s still becoming more challenging to find housing,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless.