The Business of Homelessness
This year, for the first time, the city’s share of homeless shelter spending will top ONE BILLION DOLLARS, bringing the total expense budget for DHS to 1.8 billion dollars. With so much money moving around, it’s clear that homelessness is “big business” in NYC–but if the system is bad for the budget, bad for homeless people, and bad for neighborhoods, who exactly is profiting?
The cost of sheltering a homeless person can run anywhere from $2000-7500/month (and sometimes more than that) – far more than the cost of even a luxury apartment! And yet – in spite of all the money associated with a shelter stay, residents are forced to endure restrictive, austere, and inhumane conditions.
“Business as usual” isn’t working. Homeless people have a better plan, which is why we are releasing our new report, “The Business of Homelessness: Human and Financial Costs of the Shelter-Industrial Complex.” This groundbreaking document is the result of a year-long investigation by Picture the Homeless’s research committee into the fiscal policies and priorities that influence the lives of homeless New Yorkers… and how those priorities could be adjusted to support permanent, stable, and decent housing for the lowest income New Yorkers.
The city says it is too expensive to subsidize housing for households of extremely low income, when actually it is more expensive not to.
This mess may be the consequence of multiple mayoral administrations refusing to confront the problem, but the Bill de Blasio Administration has the power to help end the Business Of Homelessness by backing the bold brave ideas coming from homeless folks.
“For years homeless people have known that the shelter system was profiting on their backs,” said Scott Hutchins of Picture the Homeless, a shelter resident and report researcher. “Now we have not only assembled the evidence to prove our case, but realistic recommendations to correct the problem and end the homeless crisis.”
“New York City needs to commit to getting out of the business of homelessness, and getting into the business of housing,” said Monique “Mo” George, Executive Director of Picture the Homeless. “Our members have done the hard work of breaking down city spending, and recommending cost-effective solutions. New York City needs to get behind these ideas, because the business of homelessness is getting bigger and bigger, with taxpayers footing the bill.”
“This groundbreaking report provides hard evidence for what we’ve always known is true – not only is building housing for our lowest-income neighbors possible, doing so would actually prove more financially sustainable in for our city in the long term,” said New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the Committee on General Welfare, which oversees homeless spending. “I applaud Picture the Homeless for its fearless work, and urge the de Blasio administration to start to adapt some of their common-sense, cost-effective solutions.”
“Thank you to Picture the Homeless for shining a light on who is profiting from our homelessness crisis,” said New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “This inexcusable situation shows no signs of abating. New York City cannot claim that it is one of the great cities of the world when tens of thousands of its own residents cannot find affordable shelter. We must intensify our efforts to both protect existing affordable apartments and create sufficient levels of new affordable housing.”
“We recognize that the city’s mandate to provide shelter is a necessary social safety net for many New Yorkers,” said New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. “But the system that we have today is no longer a safety net, and has become an increasingly permanent last stop for extremely low-income New Yorkers — at great personal and public cost. Homeless people need housing, not shelter – and that’s what the rest of New York City needs as well.”