Homelessness is a Shared Experience in the New York Metro Area
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.
Today, more New Yorkers are experiencing homelessness than ever before. In a city of more than 8.3 million people, nearly one in every 106 New Yorkers is homeless — that’s nearly 80,000 men, women and children. Every night, nearly 4,000 people sleep on the street, in the subway system or in other public spaces. However, the vast majority of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness spend the night within the city’s shelter system where they remain unseen. For every person sleeping on sidewalks or on trains, 20 more are sleeping in shelters.* And nearby metro areas such as Newark have smaller but persistent populations of individuals experiencing homelessness.
*Does not include privately-funded programs like The Bowery Mission
Poverty in New York City
The COVID-19 pandemic began amidst an already raging homelessness crisis. Millions of New Yorkers already lived on the razor's edge, one personal crisis away from homelessness, with 1 in 5 New Yorkers living in poverty and 1 in 4 New Yorkers paying more than half their income in rent. Now, because of the pandemic an estimated 1 in 7 New Yorkers have lost their job and more than 50,000 people are at risk of eviction. Sadly, the many people who have lost work were already in low-income jobs and on the brink of homelessness.
In the New York City Metro Area
In the New York City metro area, homelessness is at an all-time high.
How many people are homeless?
In a city of more than 8.3 million people, nearly one in every 106 New Yorkers is homeless — that’s nearly 80,000 men, women and children. Every night, nearly 4,000 people 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 13,000 are single men, nearly 5,000 are single women and more than 44,000 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.
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
PAGE LAST UPDATED: November 2020
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