Record Homelessness in New York, Report Finds

A record number of New Yorkers slept in city homeless shelters last fiscal year, according to a report released Monday by an advocacy group.

The Coalition for the Homeless said 113,553 turned to shelters in the fiscal year 2010 — the highest number on record since the city started counting in 1982.

Roughly 38 percent were children, which represents a 9 percent increase over the prior year, the report says. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of single women in shelter over the last three years, according to the Coalition's annual State of the Homeless report.

Unemployment sparked by the recession, a decrease in affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers and the lack of federal housing subsidies and public housing available to homeless families were cited among the reasons for the sharp increase.

The city has been moving families out of shelters with housing subsidies that last up to two years.

"They're being cut off no matter what their circumstances even if they're too poor to afford apartment rents and those families are then coming back into our shelter system," said policy analyst for Coalition for the Homeless, Patrick Markee.

The group is calling on the Bloomberg Administration to set aside 1/3 of all federal housing subsidies and public housing apartments for homeless families.

Seth Diamond, Commissioner of Homeless Services, considers the call for more federal housing subsidies within the shelter system unrealistic because the city is out of federal housing vouchers and Congress is likely to cut the allotment of housing assistance for the future.

Currently, there is no housing assistance in place to move families out of shelters into permanent apartments. Last month, the city ended the two-year subsidy after the state cut its share of funding for it.

Legal Aid is suing the city, and a judge ordered Homeless Services to keep paying people's rent at least through this month. Markee said this is the first time in recent history there hasn't been a subsidy in place within the shelter system. He argued that the cost of keeping people in shelter is $36,000 a year, which is more than it would cost to house them in private apartments. 

Homeless Services said there are no plans for a housing subsidy. Instead, Diamond said the city will continue to put the emphasis on work and employment as a means of getting people out of shelter.