More people are living in New York City shelters than at any point in decades, according to figures released by the city’s Homeless Services Department Tuesday, underscoring an escalating crisis related in part to the surge in the number of asylum seekers arriving in New York City in recent months.
As of Sunday, at least 62,070 people were being housed in city shelters, surpassing heights set in January of 2019 when 61,415 were staying in city shelters on a single night, according to DHS records.
While the city has only released a daily count monthly totals going back to 2013, records collected by the Coalition for the Homeless show the current level of homelessness has been unparalleled since the early 1980’s, when the earliest records were collected.
Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said the milestone was unsurprising given recent trends.
“We have seen more people entering the system, both longtime New Yorkers who have been priced out of their housing, as well as recent arrivals from the southern border,” she said. “Also fueling this record census is the fact that the city has not been quickly placing currently homeless people into permanent housing.”
The figures, released regularly by the Homeless Services Department, are widely considered to be an undercount as they don’t include the number of people staying in youth shelters, safe haven and stabilization beds, domestic violence shelters, and faith based shelters, among other settings. The true number of homeless New Yorkers in shelters is understood by advocates to be several thousands higher, including the number of people living on city streets, which has also rebounded to pre-pandemic heights.
New York City has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people seeking refuge in city shelters in the last few months. Around 17,000 asylum seekers have arrived since the spring, according to city tallies, and the shelter population has ballooned from roughly 45,000 people in April to now more than 62,000.
Meanwhile people are spending longer amounts of time in shelters and fewer affordable housing units are being constructed, according to the latest Mayor’s Management report, which accounts for the last six months of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure and the first six months under Mayor Eric Adams.
In response to the surge, Adams announced the construction of large tent encampments for incoming asylum seekers in a move that has been condemned by advocates for homeless New Yorkers and immigrants alike. Last week, Adams declared a state of emergency, though it only pertained to streamlining the construction of more tent encampments called “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.”
“Unless Adams acts on his commitments to rapidly house homeless people, these numbers will continue to rise,” said Craig Hughes, a senior social worker at with the Safety Net Project. “People need housing, not more spin, press conferences, panels or reports. Housing will reduce the shelter census, and getting people into housing must be the goal this administration is laser-focused on.”
A spokesperson for the city’s Homeless Services Department didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the record on Tuesday.
This article has been updated to include comment from Craig Hughes of the Safety Net Project.