This week, we heard news of another rise in the homeless population in NYC's shelters. Mayor de Blasio said he is formulating a "comprehensive vision" on homelessness.
A comprehensive vision is precisely what is needed -- comprehensive enough to include educational supports, mental health services, job training and other on-site shelter services to put, and keep, families in their own homes. Homelessness is not a lack of housing; it is a lack of housing stability.
There will never be enough affordable housing units, especially in prime real estate markets like New York City. Homeless prevention programs help, but they won't keep everyone out of shelter because the reasons they became homeless are so complex. Rental subsidies are limited by time and cost.
A successful reduction in family homelessness requires that we address the underlying causes. Today, almost 60% of formerly homeless families have returned to shelter. 50% of homeless adults lack a high school education and 70% have no real work experience. They cannot re-establish stability without a better economic base. Adult education, job skills programs, educational supports for the children and other social services are critical to a successful transition. Anything less is a waste of time, tax dollars and human potential.
To help reduce homelessness the city must transform family shelter stays into education and employment experiences to help families complete and further their schooling and be job readied, trained and placed in meaningful work before leaving shelter. Over time the city will be able to reduce its dependency on cluster shelters and welfare hotels and the number of homeless families will begin to decline for good.