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Findings from Win’s Homelessness in NYC Survey

A recent survey about perceptions of homelessness in New York City by Win, conducted by HarrisX, reveals that New York City residents nearly unanimously agree that we must do more to solve the problem of homelessness in New York City – a majority have seen the problem worsen, and few predict improvement.

Shelter is a human right according to New York City residents – we should provide shelter to all those who need it. Moreover, a majority of New York City residents support a homeless shelter opening in their neighborhood.

More Must Be Done to Address Homelessness in NYC

Nearly universal consensus emerges on the imperative to tackle the city’s homelessness problem. Ninety-two percent agree more needs to be done to address homelessness in New York City. This virtual unanimity holds across all boroughs.

Shelter is a Human Right

More than nine-in-ten New York City residents agree “we should provide shelter to all those who need it.”

This belief does not vary by borough either. Nine-in-ten or more in each borough concur that shelter should be available to everyone who needs it.

Majority of New York City Residents Support a Homeless Shelter Opening in Their Neighborhood

Not only do New York City  residents believe that more needs to be done to address homelessness, nearly six-in-ten (59%) support a homeless shelter opening in their neighborhood. Twenty-nine percent oppose a homeless shelter opening in their neighborhood, and another 12% are unsure.

In addition, a majority (52%) thinks New York City has too few homeless shelters. Just 14% think the right number of homeless shelters exist, and fewer than one-in-ten (9%) believe New York City has too many. One-quarter (26%) admit that they don’t know.

Why? The Problem Has Gotten Worse, Few Predict Positive Change, and Current Approach Untenable

New York City residents identify a need to do more, in part, because the issue has only gotten worse, they doubt this trajectory will change, and the current approach is neither a true solution nor cost-effective.

Six-in-ten New York City residents believe that the issue of homelessness in New York City has gotten worse over the course of the past five years.

Furthermore, predictions for the future hold little promise. When New York City residents imagine how the issue and their city will look in five years’ time, just one-in-four think that the issue of homelessness in New York City will have gotten better.

New Yorkers Do Not Believe Homelessness is Caused by Personal Choices

New York City residents identify numerous causes of homelessness and believe that tough times – rather than choices and actions – account for why most of the city’s homeless.

What New Yorkers Believe Are the Main Causes of Homelessness in New York City

Homelessness’s Forgotten Faces

However, when most New York City residents picture the face of the city’s homeless population, they forget a huge swath of the homeless population – families with children.

  • 62% of New York City residents picture single adults – rather than families with children – when they think about most homeless people in New York City.
  • 36% think that “families with children” make up a majority of New York City’s homeless population.
  • The reality: Families with children make up 70% of New York City’s homeless shelter population.1

What Do We Do? Complex Issue Demands a Multifaceted Approach

But because a single root cause does not exist, a variety of solutions are needed – and supported. The following policy proposals tested all earn majority support.

The Importance of Educating the Public About Homelessness

New York City residents often have the right intent when it comes to the importance of addressing the issue. However, as evidenced by the misperceptions they hold pertaining to who homelessness impacts, additional public education efforts are valuable.

Importantly, when presented with the following statistics about homelessness in New York City, 84% fail to accurately identify all of them as true.

  • Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City shelters every night.
  • 70% of New York City’s homeless are families with children.
  • Over the past 10 years, the number of homeless families staying in New York City shelters has doubled.
  • Approximately 22,000 children are currently homeless in New York City.
  • 20% of all homeless New Yorkers are five years old or younger.

What stumps most is that 70% of New York City’s homeless are families with children – just 38% think this is true.

Families not only comprise most of New York City’s homeless population, a number of these families also have a working adult. 

  • More than one-third of homeless families in shelter have a working adult.2
  • Furthermore, roughly half of the families in Win shelters have a working adult.

However, New Yorkers have a hard time wrapping their heads around how someone can have a job and also be homeless. In fact:

  • 67% of New York City residents think that most people who are homeless in New York City are unemployed (versus believing that most people who are homeless in New York City have a job).
  • 65% of New York City residents agree that having a job is enough to keep someone out of homelessness.

1   NYC DHS Daily Census, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dhs/downloads/pdf/dailyreport.pdf  

2 “Employed but Homeless: The New Face of NYC’s Housing Crisis,” El Diario, 3/27/19, https://voicesofny.org/2019/03/employed-but-homeless-the-new-face-of-nycs-housing-crisis/

For press inquiries, please contact: WIN@skdknick.com.

About the Survey

Win’s Homelessness in NYC Survey was conducted by HarrisX within New York City from March 14-19, 2019 among 1,002 New York City adults (18+). The survey was administered both online and via phone, with the phone component completed using live, professional interviewers in English and Spanish. To ensure a readable base in each of New York City’s five boroughs, a minimum of 100 completes were collected in each borough, and then the boroughs were weighted to represent the share of the city they truly comprise. The data were also weighted demographically to accurately reflect the general population of adults living in New York City.

About Win

For more than 35 years, Win has provided safe housing, critical services, and ground-breaking programs to help homeless women and their children rebuild their lives. In the past year, Win served close to 10,000 homeless people – including more than 5,000 children – and helped more than 700 families transition out of shelter into homes of their own.

About HarrisX

HarrisX is a leading opinion research company that specializes in online polling, mixed-mode polling, and data analytics. The company has a thirteen-year history assessing public opinion and behavior in the telecom, media, and technology industries through syndicated and custom research services. HarrisX runs the Mobile Insights and Total Communication Surveys, the largest syndicated consumer insights trackers in the United States for the TMT space, which include over 60,000 monthly respondents; the Telephia (beta) metering application, which captures behavioral data; and HarrisX Overnight Poll, which delivers results of general population and voter surveys within 24 hours, looking at Americans’ opinions on society, politics, technology and the economy. For more information visit: www.harrisx.com.