The Legal Aid Society, a non-profit legal organization in New York City, issued a joint statement with the Coalition for the Homeless regarding the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter census in response to the high volume of people in shelters.
On Oct. 10, 2022, the census indicated that 62,174 individuals were in the NYC shelter system. The number does not include certain subcategories of the DHS such as Safe Havens.
“The increase in the shelter census is fueled by rising numbers of people entering the system, by bureaucratic bottlenecks precluding residents from transitioning into permanent and safe affordable housing quickly, and, most notably, by the City’s continued failure to create anywhere near enough affordable housing for the New Yorkers who need it most,” said the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless on Oct. 12. “The average length of stay in DHS shelters has risen to all-time highs, with single adults spending an average of 509 days in shelters, families with minor children spending 534 days, and adult families spending a staggering 855 days.”
Both organizations said that New York City Mayor Eric Adams needs to take definitive and swift action to move homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing – starting by accelerating the housing placement process.
The organizations called on Mayor Adams to start by increasing access to affordable housing vouchers and eliminating certain bureaucratic aspects that deter or slow down those who are applying for housing, while also committing to increasing housing.
“To make a real and lasting difference, Mayor Adams must commit to financing at least 6,000 apartments per year for homeless households and 6,000 apartments per year for households with extremely low incomes,” the statement said. “We have urged the Administration to take these necessary steps for months. Should the City fail to act, the shelter census will only continue to rise even higher and more people will needlessly suffer homelessness.”
The statement comes after Mayor Adams declared a state of emergency on Oct. 7 due to the high volume of asylum seekers entering the city. Since April of 2022, a reported 17,000 migrants have come to NYC for shelter after being bussed in from Southern border states like Texas. Adams called on Albany and Washington D.C to provide the city with additional resources to provide for the influx of migrants.
“New York City is doing all we can, but we are reaching the outer limit of our ability to help,” Adams said on Friday. “Today I’m declaring a state of emergency in the city of New York and issuing an executive order. This executive order will direct all agencies to coordinate their efforts to construct the humanitarian relief centers. We are also suspending certain land use requirements to expedite this process.”
During his speech on Friday, Adams said that the city anticipated hitting the highest number of people ever recorded to be in NYC shelters, and did that day with 61,734 individuals reported to be in the system. Adams said that following this record, every day a new record would break until the city received aid. Previously, the highest single-day record was on Jan. 12, 2019 with 61,415 individuals in city shelters.