The Coalition for the Homeless released its annual count yesterday of those living in shelters and on the street, and the group found a record number of homeless New Yorkers, 113,553, of whom 42,888 were children. The report points out this is the highest number since the city began keeping count, and it reaches Depression-era levels.
The obvious explanation would be the same thing that was plaguing the city then, the economy, yet the group places much of the blame with City Hall.
[Shelter counts have seen] an 8 percent increase from the previous year and a 37 percent increase from FY 2002 when Mayor Bloomberg took office. This includes a record 28,977 families, a 10 percent increase from the previous year and a remarkable 81 percent more than when Mayor Bloomberg took office.
In the midst of this historic homelessness crisis, the Bloomberg administration’s only response has been to defend its failed policies. Unlike previous New York City mayors from Ed Koch through Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Bloomberg refuses to use proven and cost-effective Federal housing programs to move homeless families from shelters to stable homes.
Instead, for more than six years the Bloomberg administration has replaced proven Federal programs with a series of untested, time-limited subsidies like the recently-terminated Advantage program.
There is also the issue of the erosion of affordable housing resulting from the real estate boom, a situation that continues as the city’s housing market gets back to humming without much new construstion.
The city disputes the coalition’s count, according to The Journal:
Seth Diamond, commissioner of the city’s Department of Homeless Services, said the coalition unfairly compiled the statistics to paint the worst possible picture. For example, he cited statistics showing the average number of families in city shelters in March was 4% lower than the same month in 2010. “It’s an unrealistic report that uses a faulty way of looking at the data,” Mr. Diamond said in an interview. “We’ve created a system that helps families go to work, and we have record numbers of families doing that.”
Mr. Diamond acknowledged that the mayor and his administration have failed to decrease the numbers of homeless New Yorkers to the extraordinary degree that the mayor pledged during his first term.
Now that we’ve fixed the city’s schools, maybe it’s time to tackle homelessness, too.