Homelessness in New York City


Homelessness in New York CityHomelessness is a shared experience in New York City – either you have been homeless, know someone who has been homeless, or have shared the sidewalk or a subway car with someone who is homeless.  In a city of 8.4 million people, more than 36,000 homeless men, women and children sleep in homeless shelters and at least 3,200 more sleep on the streets and subways in the dead of winter.  This means that one in every 215 New Yorkers is currently homeless.

Homelessness is a broad term that looks different for each person experiencing it.  Homelessness is both the problem and the symptom of other problems that can range from chronic substance abuse, financial instability caused by unemployment or underemployment, mental illness, domestic violence, sexual victimization and more.  Often, it is a complex set of circumstances, choices, and traumas that lead a person to homelessness.  Recovery from homelessness, then, is what our President, Ed Morgan, calls “an affair of the heart.” In other words, recovery must address the holistic needs of each individual – spiritual, emotional and physical.

At The Bowery Mission, we have been helping New Yorkers to help the homeless since 1879, meeting the specific needs of each man, woman, and child who walks through our doors.  First, we help the homeless by meeting immediate needs: food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.  In our residential recovery programs, we address deeper needs for spiritual wholeness, life and job skills training, and addiction recovery.  We measure our progress against five criteria, which indicate to us that a life has been transformed from homelessness to hope:  connection to faith, connection to family, commitment to sobriety, a job and a place to live, and a plan for the future.

Homelessness is complex, but it can be overcome.  If you or someone you know is homeless, please contact us at 1-800-BOWERY-1 (1-800-269-3791) or send an email. If you would like to help the homeless, please consider volunteering with us or making a donation.


Facts About Homelessness in New York City

  • Help the HomelessIn 2012, New York City’s homeless shelter population reached its highest levels ever since the Great Depression. An average of 10,048 homeless men and women slept in shelters each night during the month, the highest since 1989 when the average was 9,342.
  • Single adults account for less than a quarter of homeless people in the New York City shelter system. In April 2012, there were more than 43,000 homeless people in NYC shelters. This included 15,787 families and a record 17,247 children.
  • During fiscal year 2011, 112,689 different New Yorkers – men, women and children – spent at least one night in New York City’s shelters.  This number included 40,238 different children. 
  • In April 2012, an average of 17,247 homeless children slept each night in municipal shelters, and this year the number of homeless New York City children reached the highest level ever recorded.
  • At least 3,262 more homeless individuals were counted living on the streets or in subways on January 20, 2012. The majority are in Manhattan. This count is 614 higher than the previous year Citywide.
  • The large majority of street homeless New Yorkers are living with mental illness or other severe health problems. 
  • African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness.  Approximately 53 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 32 percent are Latino, 7 percent are white, and 8 percent are of another or unknown ethnicity.

Sources: NYC Department of Homeless Services, Coalition for the Homeless