One in six homeless individuals and families in New York City eligible for government-assisted supportive housing received it in the last fiscal year, according to a recently released report.
Of the 7,426 applicants who qualified for supportive housing – a type of housing that provides on-site social services such as drug and mental health treatment – only 16% actually moved into a home from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, according to the report the Department of Social Services made public on Aug. 31.
The 100-page report, the first of its kind, echoes what housing advocates have been saying for years: there is not enough supportive housing for New Yorkers who need it.
“Far too many people who are eligible for supportive housing are not actually getting placed,” said Jacquelyn Simone, director of policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group. “And I think we really need to ramp up permanent supportive housing production, ensure that it is funded accurately and fairly in order to provide the robust services that will really make the model successful.”
Roughly 55,500 homeless adults and children are currently living in shelters overseen by the Department of Homeless Services. Thousands more live in shelters operated by other city agencies.
A recently enacted law passed by the City Council last year requires the city to produce and publish the data it collects by no later than Sept. 1 every year.
Among the report’s findings was how few people living on the streets and in the subways, parks, and other public spaces were directly placed into permanent housing.
Of those 110 people who qualified for housing, only 16 —less than 15%— were offered permanent homes.
“That number is shocking,” said Craig Hughes, a social worker with the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center. “That number should send shock waves across the supportive housing industry. It should send shock waves across the city social service agencies and housing agencies because the main framework of supportive housing has been that it is the premier intervention for people on the street.”
While New York City touts supportive housing as a solution to homelessness, Hughes said the data shows that officials are not embracing the idea of housing first, which is to offer homeless people a permanent home without any conditions.
Instead, Hughes said city officials are adopting a policy of shelter first, which means to access permanent housing, a homeless individual or family must first live in the city’s shelter system, which many have said is unsafe.
Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has struggled to deal with the growing homelessness crisis. Earlier this year, his administration conducted sweeps to remove homeless individuals from the subway system and clear hundreds of makeshift shelters across the five boroughs. In the last few months, the city scrambled to accommodate thousands of asylum seekers arriving in New York City, adding strain to an already overburdened system.
In June, Adams laid out a blueprint to deal with the growing housing crisis, promising to create 15,000 new units of supportive housing by 2028 — two years earlier than initially planned.
However, advocates say the administration needs to move a lot quicker to bring those units online because homeless New Yorkers need them now.
“The city has a policy of telling homeless people to either come inside or you're gonna deal with sweeps, you're gonna deal with harassment, you're gonna deal with all these things, but you're not gonna get housing,” said Hughes.
The Department of Social Services did not make an official available for an interview. In a statement, spokeswoman Neha Sharma said the report did not fully capture the scope of its efforts to connect vulnerable households to supportive housing in the reporting period.
Among the other takeaways from the report:
- Few non-English speakers, less than 7%, were placed in supportive housing.
- Of the 525 people who were turned down for supportive housing, 99 applicants were rejected because they did not show up for their interviews or did not complete their interviews. That’s a rejection rate of nearly one in every five people.
- At 52%, African Americans were the largest group of people eligible for supportive housing. Latinos were the second-largest group, accounting for nearly a quarter of eligible applicants.
This story has been revised to specify the type of housing assistance that one in six homeless New Yorkers received.