The Dynamics of Family Homelessness in New York City

More than 12,500 families slept in New York City’s homeless shelters in December 2018—a 55% increase over the last decade.

While alarming, this growing number represents only a fraction of the City’s homeless families. Less visible and harder to count are the thousands that sleep in temporary and overcrowded doubled-up arrangements, pay out-of-pocket to stay in motels, or live unsheltered in places not meant for human habitation.

These families, notwithstanding their own unique experiences with homelessness, face common challenges that prevent them from attaining housing stability. There are many dynamics at play that contribute to family homelessness, and the cumulative effect of these hardships has contributed to the growing crisis of family homelessness in New York City. They include:

Family dynamics, such as experiences with domestic violence, physical and mental health issues, and teen pregnancy, can affect a family’s stability and often lead to homelessness.

Neighborhood dynamics, including a lack of low-income housing, the absence of childcare resources, and high poverty rates, can drive families into homelessness when combined with a family’s personal hardships.

Shelter dynamics, comprised of New York City shelter system-related processes like application and eligibility policies, limited shelter capacity, and lack of housing subsidies to move families into permanent housing, can impact a family’s ability to rise out of homelessness.

The Dynamics of Family Homelessness is a comprehensive resource that uses interactive data visualizations, commentaries, and community case studies to explore how family, neighborhood, and shelter dynamics interact to contribute to the growing crisis of family homelessness in New York City. Click through the story maps below to learn about the dynamics of family homelessness in your community and across the City.




Who is in shelter, why and how are families entering shelter, and what types of facilities are families being placed in? Read more.



What community factors drive family homelessness and what resources are being allocated to the areas in which families are the most at risk for homelessness? Read more.



What experiences affect a family’s stability and put them at risk of homelessness? Read more.

*Best when viewed on a desktop computer.

Neighborhood Profile:


Seeking Stability


What applying for shelter truly means for New York City’s homeless families Read more.

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