The number of New Yorkers living in homeless shelters reached an all-time high over the weekend, a sad milestone that officials blame on a lack of affordable housing and support services for the poor.
A whopping 59,698 people — roughly the population of upstate White Plains — slept in a shelter in the five boroughs on Sunday night, according to stats released by the Department of Homeless Services.
That number has been slowly creeping up over the past few weeks, and easily surpasses the previously reported high of 59,068 in December 2014.
The grim stat is particularly high because it comes before the cold weather, which typically brings an influx of even more people to the city’s shelters.
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It also could be higher.
Coalition for the Homeless, which calculates homelessness differently than the city, counted 60,456 individuals in shelter in July, the latest stats available.
That’s just under their all-time high of 60,939 in December 2014.
Officials there say they expect that when their September numbers come in, they will have surpassed their record.
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Lauren Gray, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Homeless Services, said that the problems have been festering for decades and Mayor de Blasio is working to address them.
"The shelter population more than doubled in the two decades before this administration took over,” she said, referring to the approximately 23,000 homeless under Rudy Giuliani and 50,000 when Bloomberg took office.
“This mayor's work has helped to dramatically slow the pace of growth, and we will continue to implement new, aggressive citywide solutions to this citywide problem,” she said.
Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is now the president of the WIN network of homeless shelters, said a huge part of the problem is the lack of affordable housing.
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“The door out of shelter is probably narrower than it’s ever been,” she said.
In addition to the high rents, the city is also waiting on supportive housing for people, which the city and the state have pledged but haven’t been constructed yet.
“It’s not an immediate solution but it will help,” she said.
Giselle Routhier, the policy director of Coalition for the Homeless, also blamed the city’s “affordability crisis.”
She praised the de Blasio administration for taking steps like giving homeless NYCHA apartments and rental subsidies.Send a Letter to the Editor