Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio was criticized for failing to open 10 of the 20 homeless shelters his administration pledged for 2017, with “delays in the permit process, time-consuming negotiations with nonprofits that run the shelters, and backlash from the community and public officials” to blame. The push came from the fact that NYC has the largest homeless population in the U.S., climbing near 78,000. All of this coupled together, the situation is now looking even more dire, as the Coalition for the Homeless‘ annual State of the Homeless Report finds that a record high number of New Yorkers make up the city’s nightly homeless shelter population. This number, 63,495 (which includes 23,600 children), would make that group the 10th largest city in the state, notes the Daily News.
Since Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, the total homeless population has grown from 68,000 to more than 77,000. Last February, the city unveiled its “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan that included opening 90 shelters over five years and removing people from all cluster apartment units by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023. And despite the former pledge, the plan contradictorily aims to cut the total number of shelter facilities by almost 45 percent.
In response to the report, De Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace said, “We are building and protecting affordable homes for families — including those facing homelessness — at a record pace. Between our affordable and supportive housing plans, free legal help for tenants fighting eviction, and rent assistance programs, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Giselle Routhier, policy director at Coalition for the Homeless, did note that NYC is making more progress than the state as a whole. “The city has done actually quite a bit. We grade them quite highly on homeless prevention. At the same time, the state is doing literally no discharge planning for folks coming out of state prison and sending them straight to shelters.”
However, some negative findings from the report include:
- In 2017, an all-time record 129,803 unique individuals (including 45,242 children) spent at least one night in the shelter system – an increase of 57 percent since 2002.
- The steep and sustained increase in the shelter census that took place between 2011 and 2014 as a result of the previous mayoral administration’s elimination of all housing assistance programs for homeless families continues to contribute to ongoing record homelessness.
- Mayor de Blasio’s restoration of housing assistance for homeless families has slowed the rate of increase in the shelter census but has not been aggressive enough to turn the tide: More families and individuals continue to enter shelters than exit to stable housing each year.
The Coalition believes one way to solve the current shelter crisis is to invest in affordable housing, calling on de Blasio to “increase the number of units for homeless households…. from 15,000 to 30,000, including 24,000 newly constructed, deeply subsidized units and 6,000 preservation units.” This would factor out to 2,000 new units every year between now and 2026.
You can read the full report here.
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