23,000 Children Call City Shelters Home
For most people, homeless is a taboo subject. And in the Caribbean immigrant community in New York City, homelessness is seen as a stigma, a family shame and something that “never happens to us.” But a CARIBBEAN TIMES INVESTIGATION has exposed these societal hang-ups and phobias as a failure to confront the truth – homelessness is a major problem across all communities in New York City.
Indeed, the hard fact is that every night in New York City – across the five boroughs – thousands of families and children either sleep in the streets, the subways or in a shelter. Advocates for the homeless say that poor New Yorkers of every race, political and religious persuasion and sexual orientation literally live “one pay check away from homelessness.”
“You could lose your job today and next week be homeless. This is a major headache for the city. The problem of homelessness is so pervasive, huge and demands so much resources and attention that authorities just close their eyes and literally with that it will go away,” said Haitian community leader Mercedes Narcisse.
According to the Partnership for the Homeless, on any given night in New York City, there are 15,000 families and 23,000 children sleeping in temporary shelters. Hannah Hutton, an advocate for ending homelessness who works at The Family Resource Center said, what makes the situation more disturbing is that “34 percent of the people in the shelters have family members who work.”
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has admitted that he could not see an immediate end to the City’s homelessness crisis, that the vast majority of those now living in shelters are not the stereotypical person on the street but families with children. “The homeless population has changed, but the way we fight homelessness hasn’t. It’s time to bring new approaches and resources to keep vulnerable New Yorkers in their homes and help those in shelters find new permanent homes,” said de Blasio adding: “It’s taken us three years to realize some of these hard truths. There was a lot of trial and error.”
Right here in Brooklyn during FY 2014, there were 2,896 families in the local shelter system. In neighborhoods like Crown Heights, Bushwick, East New York and Flatbush – where the vast majority of Caribbean immigrants live – eviction and the lack of affordable housing were the major homelessness culprits. Their children are part of the 82,000 homeless public school students in NYC. And more alarming for students born in homeless families, homelessness often becomes generational, a circumstance that likely will continue to follow them later in their lives. These homeless children underperform academically and essentially grow up to be homeless adults.
“The problem of homelessness, especially homeless children, also comes with other negative issues that impact the quality of life of these kids and their potential for upward growth and development. For example, these children are more than not victims of mental health, asthma and other related issues that help retard their potential,” Ms. Narcisse, a Registered Nurse told CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS.
Here are some of the underlying reasons for the sharp rise in homelessness in Brooklyn as a snapshot of New York City. Brooklyn now leads the city in number of residents entering homeless shelters. New York City’s most populous borough is home to one of New York State’s poorest populations, with over one in five residents under the official poverty line, roughly 50 percent above the state average. The cost of living in Brooklyn is now the second highest in the nation to Manhattan with 50% of Bed-Stuyvesant residents now paying more than 30% of their income to rent.
New York City Homelessness: The Facts
- In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- In April 2019, there were 61,782 homeless people, including 14,826 homeless families with 21,709 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.
- Over the course of City fiscal year 2018, 133,284 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system. This includes over 45,600 different homeless New York City children.
African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 58 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 31 percent are Latinx, 7 percent are white, less than 1 percent are Asian-American, and 3 percent are of unknown race/ethnicity. [Source: https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org].