Today’s Read: Stemming the Annual Tide of Summer Family Homelessness

While it might seem counterintuitive, the warm summer weather always brings with it a surge in the number of homeless families seeking shelter. Landlords have fewer qualms about evicting tenants in nicer weather, and many families with children find themselves asked to leave the apartments of those they had been living doubled- or tripled-up with during the school year.

This summer, however, might see a smaller bump in the family shelter census than in past years. The number of families in NYC shelters has been decreasing marginally since the start of 2015, largely due to new housing-based initiatives such as the City’s LINC rental assistance programs that give homeless New Yorkers a path out of shelters and into permanent housing. Simultaneously, the City has expanded its eviction prevention services – saving families from the trauma of homelessness in the first place.

Given the long-term developmental and emotional obstacles associated with child homelessness, it is critical that the City utilize all possible resources – including NYCHA housing – to move more families out of shelter and into the stability of a permanent home.

Zehra Rehman wrote about the City’s efforts to stem the tide of summer family homelessness for the Gotham Gazette.

The summer spike in family homelessness has occurred consistently since at least 2005 when the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended programs that gave homeless families priority access to public housing. The administration felt that this policy was an incentive for families to become homeless so that they could jump the line and get quick access to subsidized housing.

The current administration has introduced eight new programs to decrease homelessness. Many of these programs are targeted at helping families with children. In 2015, there appears to be something of a breakthrough, with a sustained decrease in the number of homeless families. “We’ve been hopeful for a very long time. It’s just that this year, we’re finally seeing…some changes in the right direction,” says [Gabriela Sandoval, policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless].

The CITYFEPS and Living in Communities, or LINC, programs provide eligible families with assistance in paying rent to move them out of the shelter system. CITYFEPS is a rent supplement program for families that are living in or at risk of entering shelters due to a recent eviction or foreclosure. LINC are rental assistance programs that are also intended to move families out of shelters. Three of the six versions of the LINC program are specifically for families. LINC I is for families with at least one working adult, LINC II is for families that have had multiple stays in shelters, and LINC III is for victims of domestic violence. “There’s really evidence here of the start of the success of these programs,” says Foreman.

The city is also financially supporting landlords who are often reluctant to rent to homeless families. This support includes providing incentives such as a signing bonus and security fund. The current administration has also restored priority access for homeless families to public housing. These policies led to over a thousand families making the transition from shelter to public housing in the last fiscal year.