On Tuesday, the Coalition for the Homeless released its 2013 annual report on homelessness in New York City . The news was grim. A record number of homeless are spending a night in the City's municipal shelters, 50,135 in January. More than 21,000 children are homeless.
Homeless in New York City
The number of New York residents sleeping in municipal shelters is now 61 percent higher than when Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002. Nearly 75 percent of those seeking shelter were families. Blacks and Hispanics accounted for 85 percent of all shelter residents. Being homeless in New York City is a chronic problem. The data suggests that two of every three families entering the system have been homeless before. The Coalition also notes that thousands more sleep in the streets each night but that there is no accurate measure of those numbers. It is believed that at least 80 percent of those living on the streets are men.
Mayor Bloomberg Accused
Bloomberg was first elected in 2002, taking office in January 2003. The Coalition reports that 38,464 people spent time in a municipal shelter that month. In September 2011, the number of homeless broke the 40,000-person barrier and it broke the 50,000-person barrier in January 2013. The Coalition points to a famous Bloomberg promise to cut homelessness by two-thirds: "As the report shows, the grim numbers are a direct result of the Bloomberg administration's years-long failure to use proven, cost-effective strategies for moving homeless families into affordable homes." They say that his administration has reversed policies from previous administrations and cut off funding for housing vouchers and "Section 8" housing.
The Coalition points to two main reasons for the problem of homelessness in New York City. Affordable housing is limited and wages are often too low to cover housing and other family needs. They suggest a three-step approach to reducing the problem.
1. The Bloomberg administration should allow the homeless to use Federal and city resources such as "Section 8" and NYC Housing Authority rental vacancies.
2. A effective rental assistance program should be created in cooperation with the state.
3. An affordable housing construction program should be developed, to include supportive housing for the disabled and the mentally ill.
The number of New Yorkers without a home first peaked during the Koch administration at nearly 30,000. It peaked again in 2003 and 2004 under Bloomberg at just under 40,000. The numbers began their current climb in mid-2011, again under Bloomberg. The record number of homeless reported yesterday excludes those living on the street and those homeless due to Hurricane Sandy.