With the demand for supportive housing far exceeding supply, city shelters are also feeling the strain. At a City Council meeting on Thursday, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said that DHS is currently booking more than 1,100 hotel rooms each day to shelter the homeless. Each room costs the city about $4,830 per month.

Arvernetta Henry, a former New York City schoolteacher, has been homeless for four-and-a-half years, and currently lives in a converted-hotel shelter in Manhattan. A member of the grassroots advocacy group Picture the Homeless, she told us today that the cost per-night for converted hotel rooms was "ludicrous," considering the conditions she endures in the shelter system.

Henry has lived in numerous converted-hotel shelters over the years, in the Bronx and Manhattan. In her experience, "You have a bed and a little kitchenette, and people coming in and out... so you didn't know if you were going to have your belongings when you came back [at night]. If your roommate was transferred, you might have a week by yourself. That's a luxury."

At Henry's current location, she shares a room with three other women, who sleep on a bunk bed and two singles. "We have people who can't get on the top bunk, like a woman who is 72 years old. They didn't even have a ladder for her to get up," she said.

There are about 57,000 New Yorkers [pdf] living in homeless shelters, and, as of October, about 59,560 homeless people citywide—a near record high, slightly down from almost 59,000 late this summer.

The NY Times reports that as of August, the average vacancy rate for single adults at city shelters was 1.1 percent, compared to 1.29 percent for adult couples without children.

An Independent Budget Office report from October found that the expected price tag for shelter services for 2015 is $976 million, up 62% from $604 million in 2007.

"That money could be used much better, for permanent housing," said Henry.

The average homeless New Yorker costs the city, state and federal government $58,000 per year, between prison, psychiatric care, and shelter fees, according to the Supportive Housing Network of New York.

Supportive housing—permanent housing for the homeless and recently incarcerated supplemented with health and psychiatric services—carries a more modest price tag of about $30,000 per individual per year, and has been heralded as a stable alternative to the shelter system.

"Permanent supportive housing is a solution for the chronically homeless," said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director of Supportive Housing Network of New York. "There are individuals who don't leave the shelter system or the streets because they have substance abuse issues, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS, and physical disabilities. If we don't build any more supportive housing, our census is just going to go up and up."

However, the waitlist for such housing is lengthy—to the tune of 160,000 in November. And while Mayor de Blasio recently committed $2.6 billion to supportive housing over the next fifteen years, the funding will only support 15,000 new units by 2030. In September, Governor Cuomo proposed creating just 3,900 new supportive housing units for NYC, while also saying that "the city should spend more" on housing.

Ryan Gibbs, 45, of Picture The Homeless, spent five months in a shelter in 2006. "I didn't get a case worker for the entire five months. It was like I was stuck in a loop," he told us recently. "I figured it was better for me to stay in the streets then to be in there, where nothing was happening."

The Department of Homeless Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In August, Mayor de Blasio announced an emergency $10 million initiative to provide rental assistance to adults who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

At the time, the Mayor's office said that it had moved almost 15,000 New Yorkers into permanent housing.