New York homelessness sees unprecedented rise

While the mayor's net worth is up to $27 billion, 21,000 NYC children spent each night of January in a shelter

Published March 5, 2013 4:38PM (EST)

New York City has seen a 73 percent increase in the number of homeless families in the last decade, according to findings released Tuesday by the Coalition for the Homeless. In January alone, an average  of 50,000 people who had never before this year stayed in a shelter spent each night in a New York City homeless facility.

Twenty-one thousand children slept each night in January in a shelter -- a striking 1 percent of the city's youth -- while the number of homeless families rose 18 percent over the previous year (when 11,984 homeless families slept in shelters each night).

Meanwhile a low estimate for unsheltered homelessness on the New York streets puts the number at around 3,200 people every night. (Putting to shame Mayor Bloomberg's comment to reporters last month that "nobody's sleeping on the streets.")

"New York is facing a homeless crisis worse than any time since the Great Depression," said Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless. Homelessness advocates have criticized city policies for failing to provide adequate housing solutions for New York's homeless. City officials are, however, partially blaming the economy for the rise in homelessness under Bloomberg. Via the Wall Street Journal:

Aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent whose three terms have seen big increases in homelessness, partially blamed the surge on the economy.

"The economy is nowhere near where it was," said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the city's Department of Homeless Services. He pointed to the end of a state-funded program that subsidized rent for people leaving shelters, which ended in spring 2011; homeless families have gone up 35% since, according to shelter records.

However, Mr. Diamond said fewer homeless families are applying to enter the shelter system now than they were two years ago. He said the city was working to find employment for the homeless, "a long-term solution."

Advocates say the city's problems predate the end of the rent-subsidy program. Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst at the New York coalition, said Mr. Bloomberg's administration in 2005 ended a policy that had been working since the 1990s, in which the city allocated a share of federal public-housing apartments and federal housing vouchers to homeless families.

Meanwhile, in this tale of two cities, Mayor Bloomberg’s net worth increased last year by $5 billion, making him the 13th wealthiest person on the planet.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

MORE FROM Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Homeless Shelters Homelessness Michael Bloomberg New York Poverty