Fighting homelessness with fewer resources

In the Spotlight 

According to a recent report released by the Coalition of the Homeless, homelessness in New York City has reached a historic high. As of January 2014, more than 53,000 New Yorkers, including 22,000 children, stayed in a shelter. This number represents a 7% increase from the same time the previous year. In addition, homeless families now spend longer times in shelters than any previous year – 14.5 months on average.

As NYC’s homeless rate has increased, the support and resources for those fighting housing instability has dramatically decreased. In 2011, the Advantage subsidy program created under the former mayoral administration was dismantled. In order to correct state budget deficits, the program lost its state funding as well as its federal matching funds. Following the elimination of the subsidies, 8,500 families and 18,000 children who were housed because of the program have been pushed back into the shelter system.

The preliminary state budget proposal from Governor Cuomo contained language blocking the city from using state funds to create a new rental-subsidy program to assist the homeless to move into permanent housing. A rental subsidy program supported by


the state government, like Advantage, is just the sort of program Mayor de Blasio built one of his campaign promises upon. Ultimately, the City Council and de Blasio administration raised this important issue and the language was removed. Last week, the McSilver Institute presented testimony on this issue in partnership with the Institute for Community Living and Comunilife calling for increased support and collaboration from all levels of government to aid some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

While both Mayor de Blasio, and Governor Cuomo have stated their dedication to fighting homelessness, the two continue to clash on how best to combat the pervasive issue and pay for the solution. While it still remains unclear about what a renewed commitment to housing subsidies in New York City may look like, one thing is certain: tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers do not care about miscommunications or the politics between the city and Albany, but are deeply impacted by them. More must be done to provide services and assistance to help move families out of the shelter system and into permanent homes.

Direct Service Implications

Across the United States, programs to support the homeless have severely impacted by state and federal government budget deficit reduction efforts. Since the federal budget cuts known as the sequester began to be implemented, federal and state housing supports began to find themselves dismantled and the homeless themselves pushed further into poverty.

A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights that cuts to the federal Housing Choice Voucher program caused more insurmountable struggles for the homeless that extend beyond housing instability. Without the voucher program, which provides a subsidy for people to move into permanent housing, poverty rates have continued to grow, unemployment rates will continue to rise, and outcomes related to homeless children’s education and developmental achievements have remained unacceptably low.

Without reinstating funding to programs that provide federal and state subsidies to combat homelessness, the nation will continue to foster the creation and preservation of poverty. To affect political and systems change, service providers can share their experiences working with the homeless with decreasing resources through the Coalition for the Homeless of New York City and the National Coalition for the Homeless.


Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at


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