City & State: Shifting To Traditional Homeless Shelters, De Blasio Faces Backlash From Locals
“Setting aside concerns about the quality and availability of such services, some experts say there can be political advantages to using hotels and private apartments. Opening a Tier II shelter is a more time-consuming process, and communities tend to be be more aware of the proposal – and have more time to try to thwart it. These traditional shelters are also a more visible reminder of homelessness – and how well any given administration is handling it, according to Ralph da Costa Nunez, president of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. The Bloomberg administration “didn’t want to have these more state-regulated facilities because it makes the issue much more visible,” de Costa Nunez said. “So they expanded the cluster sites and the hotel sites. And what’s happened is that became the norm. They’ll put people there because it’s easy. They’ll put people there because they really don’t always get counted.”
Having helped Mayor Ed Koch open shelters, de Costa Nunez said he knew how difficult it was to find available, appropriate spaces for homeless people. He said this made the city reluctant to back away from identified locations, even in the face of immense public resistance. De Costa Nunez said that only very rarely did the backlash reach a point that City Hall decided to drop its shelter plans.”
This special report proposes using the family shelter as a tool for parents with limited education and work experience, as well as for victims of domestic violence, and those with mental health and substance abuse issues, and a history in the child welfare system.
At present, more than 12,000 families and about 23,000 children reside in New York City homeless shelters. New York City has built more affordable housing, has dispersed more rental vouchers, and has established more prevention programs than any other city in the country. So, why, after 30 years, do the number of families residing in shelters continue to grow?
Return to shelter is a critical factor contributing to the growth of family homelessness in New York City. Among families living in shelter at any point during the last half of 2014, 84% had entered shelter for the first time prior to 2014. This trend is reflective of the focus on moving families out of the shelter system as quickly as possible, with limited attention directed towards addressing the underlying reason that each family entered shelter in the first place. In order to further the conversation about the dynamics that drive family homelessness in New York City’s communities, this report provides a geographic analysis of demographic patterns and newly-available data on family homelessness.