The holidays are almost over, which means it’s time to bring you back to the depressing reality of daily existence. If you’ve managed to avoid weathering too much brain damage this year, you might recall a truly excellent piece of investigative journalism that appeared in the New York Times last year around the holidays– a time when the homeless are in even more desperate need of shelter and assistance. “Invisible Child” was Andrea Elliot’s incredible story on a young girl, Dasani, and her family’s experiences in and out of the New York City shelter system. The article was a damning account of the decline of homeless shelters and the decrease in resources and protections available to people in need of housing assistance under the Bloomberg administration.
At the outset of his term, Mayor de Blasio promised to address the crisis and reportedly has since opened 24 new shelters across the city. But as WNYC reports, the homeless population in New York City has hit a record high one year in to de Blasio’s first term. According to NYC Open Data, as of December 25th, the total population of New York City shelters hit 58,549 and saw a steady increase from a population of 50,965 exactly one year prior.
There’s no doubt de Blasio inherited a deeply troubled system. During his term, Bloomberg ended a policy that gave New Yorkers residing in homeless shelters preference for public housing assistance– one move that contributed to sky rocketing shelter populations. In January 2014, families with kids were spending on average 60 more days in shelters than they were just one year before.
However the lack of measurable improvement over the past year has led to calls for more aggressive reform. City Council representatives Stephen Levin and Ritchie Torres released a joint editorial calling on the Mayor to move more people living in homeless shelters into public housing, and to do it quickly: “Administration officials have spoken about the need to move cautiously, but the homelessness crisis is simply too deep and too urgent for small steps.”
Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris admitted to WNYC that the numbers are disappointing, but argued that a decrease in homelessness was on the horizon– the administration has “begun the re-design of the homeless system in every aspect of it,” he said.