Case Study - New York City

New York City – Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter

In 2004, the Mayor of NYC put in place a 5 year plan to end chronic homelessness. The plan itself deals with more than chronic street homelessness; it also addresses issues to do with long term shelter use and access to public benefits that are more uniquely American, rather than Australian, problems. None-the-less the plan is a comprehensive one. This plan commits to reducing street homelessness by two thirds by 2009.

They are certainly making progress in NYC. The Homeless Commissioner has put in place a range of new and re-designed initiatives. The NYC plan is based on the following 9 objectives.

  1. Overcome Street Homelessness
    Challenge: While major progress has been made in reducing street homelessness in New York City, several thousand individuals remain on the streets and in other public spaces.

  1. Prevent Homelessness
    Challenge: Thousands of individuals and families enter shelter each year without receiving homeless prevention assistance that might have saved or stabilized existing housing.

  1. Coordinate Discharge Planning
    Challenge: Many people enter shelter immediately or shortly after leaving correctional facilities, hospitals, or other institutional settings. For many of these at-risk populations, stable housing is key to recovery and/or successful integration back into their communities.

  1. Coordinate City Services and Benefits
    Challenge: By the time many individuals and families reach out for shelter, they have had extensive histories with other social service agencies and providers. Often, these agencies and providers do not share information, and some people are unaware of their eligibility for benefits that could provide critical assistance.

  1. Minimize Disruption to Homeless Families and Children
    Challenge: Families currently apply for shelter at the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx. Dramatic increases in the numbers of families served in the office, as well as band-aid style efforts to ensure a workable intake process, have created difficulties for families and staff alike. Staff’s ability to effectively assess and address the needs of families in this environment is challenged.

  1. Minimize Duration of Homelessness
    Challenge: Too many individuals and families remain in shelter for extended periods of time. In fact, the average family today spends nearly a year in shelter. Sixteen percent of the single adult population uses 50% of all of the resources.

  1. Shift Resources into Preferred Solutions
    Challenge: Despite the fact that shelters do not solve homelessness, a tremendous amount of resources are devoted today to supporting an extensive shelter network. Opportunities to shift these resources to interventions that solve homelessness, such as prevention, supportive housing, and rental assistance programs, are not maximized.

  1. Provide Resources for Vulnerable Populations to Access and Afford Housing
    Challenge: The City of New York is experiencing a profound shortage of available affordable housing. The demand for supportive and service-enriched housing for chronically homeless individuals, as well as rental assistance for at–risk populations, exceeds supply.

  1. Measure Progress, Evaluate Success, and Invest in Continuous Improvement
    Challenge: The city’s approach to helping homeless people has been well resourced, but has not always benefited from quality improvement efforts based on data and emerging research.