A Road Map to Wipe Out Homelessness

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

There's reason for optimism about ending homelessness as we know it in New York City.

Sure, the problem has never been worse. There are 57,000 homeless people daily in city homeless shelters or living on the streets, probably more. At least 22,000 of them are kids and, for them,
brushes with homelessness may lead to a lifetime of consequences.

But now a loosely knit network of community-based groups, calling themselves United to End Homelessness, have joined to author and promote a detailed plan. They fittingly called it "A Roadmap to Ending Homelessness."

The timing isn't random. It comes just weeks before an election sure to shake up city policies for decades with a new mayor, all new citywide officials and several new City Council members, too. Nicole Branca, deputy executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York, is a steering committee member. She says the group’s hope "is that this briefing book provides the next administration with the research, ideas and motivation to develop and start implementing a plan to end homelessness on day one."

This is no pie-in-the-sky plan from do-gooders. It's a war plan against homelessness that actually saves taxpayer dollars. Their research says it costs $36,000 a year to keep a family in shelter, but just $6,000 to prevent homelessness in the first place.

They say the city and state pay $78 a day for a person in shelter, $165 if they're in prison and $802 a day for a psychiatric hospital. The cost of subsidizing a homeless person in housing, including the supportive services they need, is $68.

The city's Department of Homeless Services spends nearly $1 billion yearly on homeless shelters. That's not including the expenses of multiple shelter programs under other agencies. Prevention programs for those at-risk of homelessness, moving families very quickly to permanent housing and providing the numerous other pathways to stable housing the platform advocates is the right thing to do, but it isn't cheap. Reducing DHS's shelter costs could pay for most of it.

The only way to truly know the group’s roadmap would work in the real world is, of course, to try it. [Read More.]

This is an excerpt of an Op-Ed originally published in the Gotham Gazette. Follow Care for the Homeless on Twitter @CFHNYC and Facebook for all our latest "Must Reads."

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