There are fewer families with children living in homeless shelters as of June 2021, but the average length of stay has risen compared to four years prior, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, an advocacy group, said there were 9,800 families with children living in the city’s shelter system as of last summer, which was a drop from the peak of 12,818 families reached in 2017. But the average length of stay climbed to 520 days, which was up from an average of 414 days.
A moratorium that was put in place during the pandemic suspended evictions and helped financially struggling families remain in their homes, contributing to fewer families ending up in the shelter system, according to Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.
One of the factors that contributed to homeless families living in shelters longer was the value of the city’s housing voucher program, which advocates said was inadequate to meet the rent. Also, prospective tenants were not allowed to visit and inspect apartments during the pandemic.
“That, combined with a lower value voucher at the time, I think is what contributed to a longer length of stay,” March said.
The New York City Council has since raised the value of the housing vouchers - known as the Family Homelessness and Eviction Protection Supplement program, or FHEPS – to cover market-rate rent.
Late Monday, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams referred questions to the city’s Department of Social Services, which did not immediately return a request seeking comment.