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September 29, 2016

Contact: Lauren Gray,, (o: 929.221.5249 | c: 917.790.3890)



Without rental assistance & preventive measures, number of people in shelter would be 67,000 instead of current nearly 60,000

City aiming for borough-based approach to shelter placement

The de Blasio Administration has implemented an unprecedented array of programs designed to prevent homelessness and move adults and children out of shelter, and 7,000 New Yorkers who would have been sheltered without these programs have instead avoided the shelter system. The number of people in Department of Homeless Services shelters is now at nearly 60,000 rather than the 67,000 expected without those rental assistance and other preventive measures.

"We said five months ago when we announced the results of the 90-day review of homeless services that it would take time to reverse 20 years of policies and that the number of people in shelter might continue to grow. Our current programs have substantially slowed the rate of growth in homelessness. And we will keep working to strengthen our efforts to prevent homelessness," said Steven Banks, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, which manages the Department of Homeless Services.

Homelessness has been a growing problem in New York City for decades, increasing by 115% during the last two decades. The Department of Homeless Services shelter census was 23,868 in January 1994 and 31,009 in January 2002.

The fastest growth followed the end of the Advantage rental assistance program in 2011. After that, the census grew more than 5,000 a year from 37,572 in March 2011 to 51,470 in January 2014 and 54,835 in August 2014, when the de Blasio administration was able to implement its new rental assistance, move-out and prevention programs.

Had the new measures not been implemented, the census would have grown to 67,000 by October 2016 and to 71,000 in June 2017. Instead, the census is now at nearly 60,000, 7,000 less than projected, and should continue to be well below the projected 71,000 in June 2017.

The move out and prevention efforts include:

  • New rental assistance and other move out programs that helped 40,000 people leave shelter or avoid entry through the end of FY 2016.
  • A tenfold increase in legal services for tenants from $6.4 million to $62 million.
  • A 24% reduction in evictions by marshals in 2015 compared to 2013.
  • Emergency rent help to nearly 53,000 households at a cost of $180.7 million in FY 15, an average cost of $3,400 per family, much less than $41,000 annual cost for a family in shelter.

The fundamental causes of homelessness continue to have a devastating impact on too many New York City households. Rents continue to rise much faster than incomes. Tens of thousands of households are one disaster, one missed paycheck away from losing their homes. Domestic violence continues to break up families and drive survivors into shelter. For example:

  • Fifty-six percent of New York City renters pay more than a third of their income on rent, and 3 out of every 10 households pay more than 50% of their income on housing expenses.
  • About 500,000 households, 15 percent, fell behind on their rent or mortgage during 2015, including one in four households at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, which is about $40,000 for a family of three.

At the same time that it works to prevent homelessness, the City is also aiming to phase out the use of cluster shelters and commercial hotels. Cluster shelters are individual apartments in apartment buildings that the City has rented to house homeless households in a program that began 16 years ago. Clusters are an expensive form of shelter, many are not in good condition, and by renting them the City takes them off the rental market. For that reason, the City has made exiting clusters a priority, committing to stop using them by December 2018.

As a stop-gap, since New York City has a legal obligation to provide shelter to individuals and families with no place to live, the City has had to increase its use of commercial hotels as temporary shelter, which is also expensive. There are currently 11,400 adults and children in clusters and about 6,000 in commercial hotels.

Homeless families and individuals are best served when they can stay in the borough where they were living, near their jobs, near their children’s school and near their extended family and other social supports. Because of lack of capacity, right now the City has very limited ability to keep homeless households in their home borough. For that reason, the City must open more shelters around the City.

"The City is opening new shelters across the City to ensure that families and individuals can maintain the community connections that will help them leave shelter as soon as possible. Homelessness is a citywide problem that requires a citywide solution. It's time we recognize that homeless New Yorkers are a part of all our communities. They are our neighbors. They have been living among us and have fallen on hard times," Commissioner Banks said.

Families with children comprise 70% of people in City homeless shelters, including more than 23,000 children. Many of these children are the youngest New Yorkers - under five years old.