Forgotten Face of Homelessness
New York City is facing an unprecedented homelessness crisis, with more families cycling through the shelter system than ever before. To successfully address the situation and break the cycle of homelessness for families and children in our city, we need innovative policy solutions and proper planning rooted in a fundamental shift in how we think about homelessness.
While New York City has made important efforts to combat the growth in homelessness, more than 23,600 children went to bed in a New York City homeless shelter on a given night in September of 2016. The number of families with children arriving at the doors and staying in a New York City homeless shelter increased in 2016, continuing the upward trend that has taken shape over the past five years.
On average, approximately 70% of homeless New Yorkers in the city’s shelters are families with children. In contrast to single homeless adults, of whom an estimated 2,800 are chronically homeless and living on New York City streets on a winter night, over 99% of homeless families with children are sheltered. Though the majority of homeless people are families with children, New Yorkers are not explicitly confronted with child and family homelessness. The more visible plight of homeless adults and the media’s focus on them has skewed the narrative causing families with children to become the forgotten face of homelessness.
Win proposes a series of forward thinking policies designed to: shift the focus of intervention to the whole family, not just the parent; determining what number of shelter units are needed and pro-actively identify locations for adequate, high-quality Tier II shelter; reduce excessive barriers to grant more families access to subsidized and supportive housing; and use data to inform service provision and aftercare to better support the transition from shelter once a family is ready to maintain housing stability.
We must take a holistic view of homelessness that:
- Focuses on families and children, not just the parent(s)
- Enhances our city’s processes for addressing homelessness by developing a multiyear plan for construction of the necessary number of units
- Prioritizes long-term stability over moving homeless families out of shelter quickly, before they’re ready to move
- Provides support to meet the long-term needs of homeless families once they leave shelter