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Homelessness is a Shared Experience in New York City

Chances are you have walked by or shared a train car with someone who is homeless, know someone personally who has been homeless, or even experienced homelessness yourself.

Every night in our city, nearly 4,000 people sleep on the street, in the subway system or in other public spaces. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness – over 63,000 homeless men, women and children – spend the night instead within the city’s shelter system where they remain unseen.

In a city of 8.5 million people, nearly 1 in every 121 New Yorkers is currently homeless. But only 1 out of every 17 of these individuals is visible to the eye.

Poverty in New York City

Skyrocketing rents and minimal wage growth put pressure on households with limited resources. 60% of New Yorkers say they don’t have enough emergency savings to cover at least 3 months’ worth of expenses like food and rent. And nearly 20% of New York City residents already live below the poverty line (earning less than $24,300 for a family of four).

Poverty in New York City greatly affects children: nearly 1 in 3 people living below the poverty line is a child. Poverty also tends to be concentrated in neighborhoods with low-performing schools and high rates of violence, unemployment, substance abuse and teen pregnancy. All of this can have negative effects on child development and well-being, and ultimately perpetuate cycles of poverty and inequality.

The Need in the New York Metro Area



In the New York City metro area, homelessness is at an all-time high.

How many people are homeless?

Every night, more than 63,000 people sleep in the New York City municipal shelter system — up 43% from 10 years ago. Nearly 4,000 more sleep on the street, in the subway system or in other public spaces.

What causes homelessness?

In most cases, multiple factors are involved. Common ones include: mental illness, substance abuse, untreated medical issues, traumatic events, violence and abuse, lack of affordable housing and difficulty sustaining employment.

Who experiences homelessness?

People of all genders, races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds experience homelessness. Among those sleeping in city shelters, more than 11,000 are single men, nearly 4,000 are single women and nearly 46,000 are adults or children in families.


Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 3 NYC children live below the poverty line.

Where are children at risk?

The South Bronx and East Harlem are two New York City neighborhoods suffering from concentrated poverty. Burdened with high crime rates, poor health outcomes, and poor housing conditions, these areas pose high risks for child welfare.

What are the effects of poverty?

Hundreds of studies have examined the detrimental effects of poverty on the well-being of children. Growing up in poverty may disturb a child's brain development and undermine his social and emotional growth.

How can poverty be addressed?

Opportunities for enrichment and mentoring can play a critical role in helping children thrive in school and life. Quality programs support children's social and emotional development, helping them grow into adults who are healthy, grounded and economically self-sufficient.

  • Facts About Homelessness

  • Tips on Helping the Homeless

SOURCES Shelter Census Reports, New York City Department of Homeless Services and Human Resources Administration and NYCStat; American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau; Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), New York City Department of Homeless Services; Poverty in New York, NYC Furman Center

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