Since the end of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure three years ago, New York City met a significant rise in homeless shelter occupants. According to the New York Post, 36,898 adults and 23,000 children have sought refuge in the city’s shelters.
A report conducted by the Coalition for the Homeless outlined that the percentage of homeless people in NYC is “83 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.” In an interview with Spare Change News, Jacquelyn Simone (Coalition for the Homeless’ policy analyst), stated that the city’s barely affordable housing market is a major factor in this plight.
“When you have a crisis like that, an affordable housing crisis, it’s just a matter of time until somebody falls behind on their rent and ends up in the shelter system,” she said. “It can happen to anyone.”
In order for programs to be effective in combating the rise of homelessness, Simone believes the state and city should work hand in hand. “We know how to help [homeless individuals], but we just don’t have the resources to help them,” she said. “We really need both the city and the state to do as much as they possibly can to tackle this crisis, because we know what works to solve homelessness, and we just need our elected leaders to embrace these proven solutions by focusing on housing.”
The organization adds that the number of people who find shelter in public places in NYC are still unaccounted for when gathering data. For those who decide to carve out personal space on the streets, their decision to remain outside of a shelter is a result of some of the dangers that also find a home within these spaces, like sexual abuse, drugs, and hazardous infrastructure.
“Most of the shelters are not run like a shelter. Like, ‘I want to get off the streets… let’s eat. Everything’s OK, man,” said Jermaine Williams, a homeless man for nearly a decade, to the New York Daily News. “It’s ran like jail. It’s just like Rikers Island.”