New York City has an outdated, linear homeless service system that prioritizes emergency shelters ahead of permanent housing. This broken “shelter first” system simply manages homelessness and fails to provide a pathway to end it. Instead of preventing homelessness, the system mandates a minimum 90-day shelter stay for most families to qualify for rental assistance, resulting in nearly 700 families entering shelter each month.
Over 1/3 of all individuals in NYC homeless shelters are children - half of whom are under the age of six.
In 2019, 1 in 100 NYC newborns went to a Department of Homeless Services emergency shelter facility.
The United States has a history of using housing policy to create, compound and maintain systemic racial inequality. These policies historically prevented communities of color, especially Black, Latino and Indigenous households, from owning property and building wealth. As a result, Black and Latino families disproportionately experience homelessness compared to white families nationwide and in New York City.
New York City spends more than $3 billion annually to assist people experiencing homelessness, but 70% of that goes to operating shelters. This expensive band-aid solution simply manages homelessness and fails to provide a pathway to end it.
This shelter first approach is in direct conflict with federal (HUD) guidance that emphasizes homelessness prevention policies that are proven to reduce homelessness.
Instead, NYC invests billions of dollars on shelter stays that fail to put families on a pathway to permanent housing.
Emergency shelter is more expensive and worse for New Yorkers' health and wellbeing than permanent housing. Providing a family with a single day of shelter is $135 more expensive than providing that family with permanent rental housing at the Fair Market Rent. This difference in cost only grows over time.
Health and housing are inextricably linked. Stable housing makes it easier to become and remain healthy, just as being healthy makes it easier to become and remain stably housed. Homelessness and housing instability can cause long-term harm to people at every stage of life. There can be no right to health without a right to housing.
Poor Physical Health
Homelessness leads to shorter life expectancy and higher rates of chronic conditions.
Mental Health Risks
Homelessness increases risk of serious mental illness and substance use conditions.
Child Developmental Delays
Young children experiencing homelessness are more likely to face developmental delays.
Children facing homelessness are at an increased risk of missing and falling behind in school.
People dealing with housing insecurity and homelessness are more likely to skip meals.
The virus has disproportionately impacted people experiencing homelessness, and the pandemic has revealed just how many New Yorkers are on the brink of homelessness.
The stress and act of living on the street or in a shelter make people experiencing homelessness exponentially more likely to contract and be at risk of dying from COVID-19. Contracting the virus can also cause housing instability through financial disruption, job loss, or by instigating long-term chronic conditions that require in-home support.
The financial downturn brought about by the pandemic increased joblessness, rent payment issues and housing instability nationwide. The stress of the pandemic can exacerbate unstable housing situations and family strife, causing homelessness.