A New Path To Ending Family Homelessness

An October 30, 2016 editorial in the New York Post noted that the Mayor had no long-term plan to reduce family homelessness. That's not necessarily true. The de Blasio Administration does have a plan, it's just the wrong one. They think that more affordable housing and temporary rental vouchers will reduce homelessness. They won't.

Homelessness isn't and never has been simply about housing; it is about housing stability, a family's ability to maintain a stable housing situation. Any number of social and economic needs bring families to shelter: almost half are victims of domestic violence, one in ten suffers from mental health issues, over a fifth have instances of child abuse or neglect, half never graduated from high school and only a third have any meaningful work experience. A housing placement and rental voucher won't guarantee that these families won't become homelessness again.

If the city wants to reduce family homelessness it will have to choose a "new path" and restructure its shelter system to address the real factors driving family homelessness. Rather than continuing to operate traditional shelters, shelters must be transformed into Community Residential Resource Centers, intensive educational, employment and social service facilities that prepare families for stable independent living prior to a housing placement. Over time the demand for shelter, the length of stay in shelter, the rate of return to shelter, and the cost of shelter would all decline as this "new path" to permanent stable housing takes hold.

This transformation of the current shelter system is an effective long-term plan for reducing family homeless families, and most importantly, it makes sense.

To access ICPH's research and data on family homelessness, please go to www.ICPHusa.org.