Today’s Video: How Homelessness Has Worsened in the City

With the New York City shelter system bursting at the seams and thousands of people sleeping on subways or sidewalks, many New Yorkers are asking themselves how we got to this point. The answer, as explained in the Coalition’s annual State of the Homeless report, is a devastating combination of economic factors that have pushed increasing numbers of men, women, and children from their homes and years of misguided policy decisions that have failed to adequately address the crisis. The only way to reverse the trend is for the City to use all existing housing resources and provide vastly more permanent housing for homeless households.

Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier and HELP USA Executive Vice President George Nashak spoke with Cheryl Wills on NY1’s “In Focus” program about the roots of the homelessness crisis, prevention-based strategies, the onerous shelter intake process, and the need to prioritize permanent housing resources at a scale to meet the unprecedented need. As Giselle explained:

“Right now, we’re facing near-record levels of homelessness. We’ve been hovering around the total record for many months now with 62,000 people sleeping in shelters – men, women, and children, including 23,000 children.

“The reasons that we’re looking at record homelessness now in the way that we’re seeing it are twofold: We’ve got economic forces, and we’ve got policy responses. We’ve been seeing now over many years and decades the growing gap between incomes and rents. As incomes have stagnated, rents have continued to go up in this city, and that’s causing people to be priced out of their housing.

“The second piece is the policy response. For many decades, you’ve had responses that have not met the needs of people who are homeless. Particularly going back to one of the largest spikes that happened between 2011 and 2014, where there was no rental assistance in place to help families move out of shelter and become permanently housed, and even back to 2005, when there was no permanent affordable housing allowed to be given to folks in shelter. So we’ve been faced with the dual problems of not an appropriate response and also the growing economic crisis facing New Yorkers.”

Visit the NY1 website to watch the full segment.