Child and family poverty in New York City are not new. Indeed, destitute families and homeless children have existed throughout American history, especially in urban areas. This long history of poverty, along with public and private relief efforts, continues to influence public policy today. For this reason, ICPH has made a commitment—unique among research organizations of its kind—to deep historical research on family poverty and homelessness in New York City.

This research will help policy makers understand the origins of the practices and institutions that shape efforts to relieve poverty and homelessness today. It provides background for social service providers who want to understand what had been tried in the past as they develop new strategies. Finally, our historical research assists educators in incorporating the history of family poverty in the middle school, high school, and college classroom.

In 2012, ICPH will publish a book-length history of family poverty in New York City that places current public policy for poor and homeless children in context. We are also at work on an interactive Web site on the history of poverty and homelessness, including images, primary sources, interpretive essays, teaching guides, and student activities.