The majority of homeless individuals in New York City are homeless because they were evicted, were living in overcrowded housing, lost a job, faced discrimination, or were fleeing domestic violence. We need to reframe the conversation about homelessness to focus on women and children. There are more homeless children under 6 than there are single men. It also crucial to acknowledge that black and brown individuals make up 90% of the homeless population.
Additionally, street homeless and those with alcohol and drug dependencies or mental illness need additional supports to help them cope with the struggles they are facing.
Shelter is a basic need that must be met in order to create a sustainable future. The city should increase the availability of Supportive Housing (with physical and mental health services), prioritize transitions to permanent housing instead of offering generous checks to short-term landlords, and ensure that voucher values increase in line with rents.
Women and Children First:
Current lotteries for affordable housing give preference to individuals with disabilities or individuals living within the same Community Board district. The City should add a preference for women and children living in shelters or transitional housing. As Public Advocate I would work with the city to make this a priority.
Support for Homeless Youth:
In order to provide the supports that children need as they are in transitional housing or homeless during this critical stage of development, the city should appoint ‘Children’s Advocates’ to help homeless and low-income families navigate the school system and other services that will help children feel safe and secure. Additional funds are needed to address the academic, mental health, and social challenges students face when experiencing homelessness.
In addition, teachers and school staff should be trained on how to best support students experiencing homelessness. Stronger coordination between Department of Mental Health, Department of Housing, and Department of Education could help leverage the funds to support students impacted by homelessness.
LGBT youth represent a disproportionate share of homeless youth living without a parent and there is a real need for safe housing for these homeless LGBT youth. Specifically, the City should increase funding for both emergency shelter beds and transitional beds for homeless youth.