NEW YORK (TIP): A record-high 42,000 kids slept in a city homeless shelter last year – including 1 in 17 of New York’s black children, a report has found.
Overall, one in 43 city children were among the 116,000 people forced into shelters during the year, according to a Coalition for the Homeless analysis that portrays a dire housing crisis that is hitting kids and African-Americans the hardest.
“It’s a shocking finding – the crushing toll homelessness is taking on children,” said Mary Brosnahan, president of the coalition. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say this is the future of the city at stake.”
Over the last decade, the number of families with children in shelters jumped 27%, and the number of African-American families jumped 41%.
Jessica Pendergrass, 30, said homelessness has taken a toll on her daughter, Kayla Wilson, 12. They’ve been living in a Queens shelter for two months since Pendergrass lost her job as a home health aide and was kicked out of her grandmother’s apartment.
“I was bawling, crying my eyes out, because I literally have nowhere to go,” said Pendergrass. “I’m just floating in the breeze because I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t make rent in New York City,” she said.
“It’s been hard,” said Kayla – but she recognized things could be worse. “I have a bed to lie in every night. I’m just grateful,” she said.
The total nightly shelter population was 60,670 in January by the coalition’s estimates, a 13% increase from a year before.
The number has dipped slightly, down 300 families from December. According to the Department of Homeless Services, which calculates the population differently, there were 57,718 people in shelters as of Tuesday.
“The coalition’s report rightfully calls into focus income inequality, low wages and lack of affordable housing as clear drivers of homelessness. DHS is taking concrete steps to reduce a record-high homeless population,” said Commissioner Gilbert Taylor.
Brosnahan credited Mayor de Blasio’s policies, like creating a rental assistance program, with making a dent in the crisis, but said more must be done.
The group is pushing de Blasio to set aside 2,500 NYCHA apartments per year for the homeless, up from 750, as well as 10% of his 200,000 planned affordable apartments. They say Gov. Cuomo must fund rental assistance and supportive housing.