The Issue Of Homelessness In New York City


Barakat Jooda, Co-editor

According to Coalition for the Homeless, “In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression.” It is quite obvious that the issue of homelessness in New York  City(NYC) has, over the years, become an issue of really great importance, as the number of homeless people in NYC has tripled from the 1900s to now. The issue of homelessness is not just a national issue, we have reached a crisis level, according to the New York City Council.

There are multiple reasons as to why this number keeps increasing, the biggest of which is affordable housing. 

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing, according to is, “housing that is appropriate for the needs of a range of very low to moderate income households and priced so that these households are also able to meet other basic living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care, and education.” Majority of NYC houses and apartments, in all five boroughs, are priced so that an average wage earner might not be able to afford them. If they are able to afford them, they will have little to no money left for other expenses. It doesn’t make sense that a huge percentage of New Yorkers are average wage earners, but still, the prices of housing and rent are quite expensive. It is appalling that the percentage of affordable housing in New York City are in really poor and in unlivable conditions; such as bad structural condition, rodent infestation, and bad infrastructure. Affordable housing has become such a big issue, because when many of NYC’s residents cannot afford housing, they most likely end up homeless. Even with the prices dropping in real estate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most average wage earners still cannot afford the rent and prices. It really doesn’t reflect well on New York City that a large percentage of its residents are homeless, as it shows how little attention is being paid to our city’s residents. 

Some Negative Impacts of Homelessness

Being homeless has a lot of negative impacts on people. Firstly, homeless people end up resorting to crime to make a living. Many homeless people are usually abandoned on the street with no proper jobs or a way to make a living. Due to this, a good number of them resort to theft, and other illegal ways to make money, in order to feed and take care of themselves. Homelessness leads to an increase in substance abuse and a a higher risk of sexual and physical violence. In addition, it leads to development of behavioral problems, as many homeless people have little to no access to good healthcare and healthy relationships. Homeless children miss out on an education and enjoying their childhood. Being homeless leads to an increase in mental illness and mental health issues as well.

Bad Shelter Conditions

According to, “Shelters are considered by many homeless individuals as providing an unacceptably low level of personal security.” The report states,”The incidence of theft, physical attack, or other types of violations in the shelters — whether experienced, witnessed, or simply rumored — clearly contributes to the perception of the shelter system as chaotic and unsafe.” Of the more than 600 homeless shelters in NYC, a majority of them are extremely unsafe, cramped,  and inefficient. The majority of NYC’s homeless people who eventually get to shelters, end up leaving the shelters, because the shelter system is simply inefficient. The rooms are very small, and they usually have to share a bunk bed, with limited appliances. There is little to no extra attention being paid to disabled and ill people. They are usually just packed in there, in these horrible conditions. In addition to these bad living conditions, most shelter staff are usually overwhelmed and they are very poorly trained. According to, “The report stated that shelter security problems are compounded by inadequate and poorly trained staff..” New Yorkers, who end up in shelters, complain greatly about how staff are usually very unhelpful, and negligent the issues and concerns they have. In addition to this, there is no adequate and clear plan as to how to combat homelessness, and to provide proper and permanent housing for most of the shelter residents. Most of these people usually go from shelter to shelter, with no clear understanding of what the future holds for them, in regards to quality and permanent housing.

What should the NYC’s government do? 

The NYC government can certainly do a better job at providing a clearer plan to keep homeless people off of the streets and into good and permanent housing. They can also provide more help for people who lose their jobs, get evicted, and lose their homes for whatever reason. Although there are several organizations providing help, the NYC government can certainly do better in providing quality help for those people. It is also important that the government builds shelters with livable conditions. Well-trained staff is quite important, because although there are shelters, they are in extremely poor conditions. There should also be a review of the housing system, regarding how many houses are actually affordable for the average wage earners.

Even though Mayor Deblasio’s promised countering homelessness and providing better and long-lasting solutions to this issue, he has failed as the Mayor of New York City. We can only hope that Eric Adams, the next NYC Mayor, tackles this extremely serious issue with urgency. While we hope and urge the government to do their part, it is also important that we do our part to help alleviate this issue. As winter is approaching, we could be more compassionate, and donate or buy, warm clothing for the people who live on the street. If we could afford it, we could also donate food and assistance to organization which help the homeless. Even just a little help, goes a long way!