A shocking number of families with children in New York City lack stable housing: Every night, 22,083 kids sleep in City shelters, and in 2017, 1,164 newborns were brought “home” from the hospital to a shelter, which was the second consecutive year in which more than 1,000 babies were born to mothers living in shelters. One of every 10 New York City public school students was homeless during the 2018-2019 school year when including those doubled-up with family or friends in addition to those in shelters. These youngest victims of the citywide housing and homelessness crises face numerous barriers, and even getting to school from a shelter often proves to be challenging. The stress and instability of childhood homelessness are associated with behavioral and health issues, which can have long-lasting ramifications.
In addition to offering youth programs and donation drives (such as our annual Holiday Toy Drive, which ends this week), Coalition for the Homeless aims to help homeless families with children by advocating for more permanent housing so they can move out of shelters and into homes of their own. For nearly two years, the House Our Future NY Campaign has urged Mayor de Blasio to increase the number of permanent affordable apartments set aside for homeless households to 10 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan: 24,000 newly constructed apartments and 6,000 preserved apartments. Additionally, we have worked alongside our partners in the Family Homelessness Coalition to encourage the City to bolster supports for homeless families, such as by increasing the number of Bridging the Gap social workers for schools with high rates of student homelessness.
David Brand summarized key family homelessness data – and, more importantly, spoke with the real people behind those numbers – for City Limits:
A lack of affordable housing is the main driver of homelessness in the city, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. At a staggering scale, and with a profound impact on city life, the affordable housing crunch has exacerbated issues like domestic violence and fueled a crisis that disproportionately affects families of color headed by single mothers across New York City.
Even all the monthly statistics, earnest news coverage and serious policy analyses around homelessness often fails to capture the actual human scope of the crisis. Political window-dressing obscures it. The fact is, a significant portion of an entire generation of New Yorkers — mainly young black and Latino children — are growing up partly in cramped shelters in the South Bronx, coming of age in basement rooms in South Jamaica and navigating adolescence while dragging beat-up suitcases through the Broadway Junction transit hub to their next bed.
Policymakers and most everyday New Yorkers have yet to come face-to-face with the extent of the crisis, even as mass instability takes a lasting toll on individual lives and social networks in the city.
Roughly 70 percent of city shelter residents are families with children, and the vast majority of those are headed by single mothers, according to the Department of Homeless Services. About 15,000 school-aged children (kids from 4 to 17) stay in city shelters each night, DHS says.
On Dec. 1, a total of 21,683 children of all ages slept in a city shelter, according to the agency’s daily census report.