Today’s Read: Number of Homeless People in New York State Continues to Grow

Across the United States, 552,830 people were homeless on a single night in 2018, showing the strong economy has not fully addressed the persistent lack of affordable housing. A striking 17 percent of those homeless Americans, or 91,897 people, were in New York State. What’s more, these heartbreaking figures from the newly released 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress are certainly an undercount: They derive from an annual point-in-time count that is known to miss many people sleeping on the streets.

The annual report underscores the urgent need for all levels of government to more fully commit to addressing homelessness by investing in more permanent affordable housing. After years of needless delays, the State must adopt Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support rent subsidy proposal, which would bridge the difference between the public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions.

In order to actually decrease homelessness, the City must dedicate significantly more of its affordable housing resources to the record numbers of men, women, and children sleeping in shelters and on the streets. Mayor de Blasio has committed a mere 5 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan to homeless New Yorkers despite repeated calls to do more. On Monday, Coalition for the Homeless joined faith leaders and other members of the House Our Future NY Campaign in a candlelight vigil to urge Mayor de Blasio to increase the number of apartments set aside for homeless New Yorkers to 10 percent of his Housing New York 2.0 plan – 30,000 units, with 24,000 units to be created through new construction.

Brendan Cheney wrote about the new homelessness figures for Politico:

There were 91,897 homeless people on a single night in New York State in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report released Monday — a 2.7 percent increase from 2017.

The spike was mostly driven by a 2.8 percent increase in New York City as the number of city homeless people grew to 78,676. New York City’s homeless population represents 86 percent of the state’s total homeless population.

The number of homeless people in New York state has increased 40 percent from 2010, the year before Andrew Cuomo became governor. In 2011, Cuomo cut state funding for a city rental assistance program that housed formerly homeless people (called the Advantage program) after which then-mayor Michael Bloomberg ended the initiative. Homelessness in the city spiked in the following years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio created a new rental assistance program in November of 2014, which the state provides funding support for. Even so, the number of homeless people continued to increase in the city following the new program’s implementation and the mayor has faced sustained criticism for not allocating more units for the homeless in his housing plan.

“These numbers just show that we are in the midst of a sustained and growing homelessness crisis with no end in sight, and a growing economy will not solve this crisis on its own,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless. “Both the City and the State need to put full resources behind tackling this problem.”

Routhier recommended de Blasio increase the number of units for the homeless in his plan and [that Governor Cuomo] implement Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s rental assistance proposal.