Homelessness has a profound effect on the lives of thousands in our city who not only are faced with overwhelming obstacles and limited resources, but also battle the stereotypes of homelessness. Many have experienced considerable stress staying in multiple settings to avoid shelter life… doubling up in overcrowded apartments with relatives and friends or even living in abandoned buildings. Complex issues have led to their homelessness, but what they all have in common is insufficient financial resources to obtain or maintain housing. Most have incomes below the poverty level and, while many continue to receive some form of public assistance, many others are among the working poor. These include people who were barely able to scrape together the rent until someone lost a job or was hit by an unexpected medical expense.
But most disturbing is that homelessness is not just about adults who have lost their way; in fact close to half of the homeless are children caught in circumstances beyond their control. Children who, in addition to having their development, health and education severely impacted, are teased in school because of their situation and celebrate birthdays, holidays and graduations away from friends and other family members because its uncomfortable to have visitors at the shelters.
According to the New York Times, last year, New York City’s homeless shelter population reached its highest levels ever since the Great Depression.
- In April 2014, there were more than 52,000 homeless people in New York City shelters. This included 10,845 families and 10,334 single adults.
- During the course of each year, more than 111,000 different homeless New Yorkers, including more than 40,000 different children, sleep in the shelter system.
- The average length of shelter stay for families with children went up 10% from 2012 to 2013 to a record 375 days. Families without children averaged 484 days in shelter.
- In April 2014, an average of 22,500 homeless children slept each night in municipal shelters, the highest level ever recorded.
- At least 3,180 more homeless individuals were counted living on the streets or in subways in January 2013. The majority are in Manhattan.
- The large majority of street homeless New Yorkers are living with mental illness or other severe health problems.
- African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 56 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 33 percent are Latino, 7 percent are white, and 4 percent are of another or unknown ethnicity.