As the policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless the main goal for the project is to reduce the number of people that go homeless in New York City. Throughout New York City the growing homeless population has become increasingly problematic. Estimates conclude that homelessness is at an all-time high; comparable to the rates experienced during the great depression. Yet the question remains on how to effectively reduce the number of people going homeless on a long-term basis and prevent people from needing to return to homeless shelters. Trends in homelessness and vulnerable populations will be reviewed to demonstrate correlations. Agencies that are available to assist in preventing homelessness will be noted with the services they provide. Based upon these findings recommendations will be presented. The recommendations will focus on prevention on a primary, secondary and tertiary level to ensure that appropriate strategies are formulated at all levels and affect all individuals that currently at risk as well as those that may become at risk in the future.
Determining the exact number of homeless people in New York City is a difficult task. Each year New York investigates the number of people that are homeless to appropriate funding. The New York Department of Homeless Services (2011) estimates that approximately 2,648 people are homeless. However, this number is debated by the Coalition for the Homeless (2011) which estimates approximately 39,500 people throughout New York are homeless. Determining the exact number of people that are homeless in New York City is nearly impossible as this number fluctuates throughout the year and the homeless tend to migrate into different cities. Furthermore, when organizations investigate homelessness it is difficult to get a clear picture of the presenting problem as they must first find people that are homeless; which can be a difficult challenge.
New York City has seen a vast increase in the homeless. In 2001, the city had witnessed an increase of 22% in homeless people (Coker, Meyer, & Smith, 2010). This again increased 35% by the following year. Estimates conclude that in 2003, approximately 9,000 families were relying on shelters for survival. Findings further confirmed that 64% of all homeless people were originally from ten specific districts located within New York City (see table 1.1 & 1.2.).
Table 1.1. Demonstrates the findings of the Coalition for the Homeless (2011) in determining the number of homeless people in New York (pp. 1). Research has demonstrated that New York City makes up approximately 64% of the homeless people reported.
Table 1.2. Demonstrates the rise in the homeless population in New York City since 1983 (Collation forHomeless 2011 pp. 9).
The economic recession is believed to have statistically increased the number of homeless people. Throughout the nation unemployment rates have soared. In New York City; the number of unemployed people has nearly doubled since the beginning of 2008 (see table 1.3). The time of the year may further serve as an indicator of the growing homeless population in New York. Gralla (2011) describes the increases in New York homeless shelters as the weather is changing. People may be more likely to avoid a homeless shelter during the summer and increasingly likely to find a homeless shelter during the cold New York winters.
Table 1.3 Demonstrates the increases in unemployment rates in New York since 2008 (New York Department of Labor Statistics 2011 pp. 2).
Overall, differentiations can be accounted for in the number of homeless families and individuals that are homeless. Families are more likely to reside in a homeless shelter than homeless singles (Coalition for Homelessness 2011). The number one reason cited for homelessness in families is lack of affordable living conditions. In contrast, homeless singles in New York City are more likely to have psychiatric problems including addiction. Homeless singles are disproportionately African American and Latino males (see table 1.4).
Table 1.4 Demonstrates the division of homeless people in New York City shelters by race (Coalition for Homelessness 2011).
Homeless families are more likely to represent a large portion of the homeless population. Estimates from the Coalition for the Homeless (2011) in February of 2011 conclude that approximately 9,000 families were homeless in New York City shelters; accounting for 75% of the population residing in homeless shelters. According to Youth Service Opportunity Project (2011) “over half of homeless mothers in New York City have a history of domestic violence” leading to increases in families head by single mothers (pp. 8). Families entering in homeless shelter face unique problems in contrast to singles. The number of beds and living space in homeless shelters maybe limited; thus leaving these individuals nowhere to sleep. Homelessness is more likely to occur in certain districts of New York City. Manhattan alone accounts for 60% of the homeless population.
Despite the individual factors associated with homelessness the problem continues to flourish. According to the Coalition for Homelessness (2011) “homelessness in New York city has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s” (pp. 3). The problem of homelessness effects families, individuals, women and children. Although shelters are available to provide assistance to the homeless population; serving the entire population is a difficult and unrealistic task.
Homelessness has always existed. From a historical perspective people immigrated to the United States were homeless. Many of these individuals built homes on available land. Yet as the country developed available land diminished. Newly immigrated individuals often were able to find various religious orientated organizations to help them in the immigration process.
Homelessness again became popular during the 1929 market crash that led to the great depression. The 1929 stock market crash and the growing homeless population during this time coined the phrase “Hooverville” (Washington University n.d. pp. 1). Hooverville was a reference to the blame the population placed on then president Hoover for the economic crisis and growing homeless population. During this period millions of people throughout the United States were unable to pay their mortgages or rent; resulting in the displacement of millions of people. However, the financial crisis eased when the United States entered World War II. The war resulted in the creation of jobs and more women taking jobs outside of the home. Yet homelessness still remained a problem for many.
Until the late 1970’s people that were homeless had nowhere to go. The need to provide shelters was not legally mandated; leaving few options for the homeless. According to the Coalition for the Homeless (n.d.) in 1970 a lawsuit Callahan v. Carey was filed that argued the state of New York need to provide shelter based upon the state’s Constitution states "the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions” (pp. 3). In the late 1980’s the McKinney act was passed. According to The National Health Care for the Homeless Council (n.d.) the McKinney act provided “approximately $1.5 billion per year in shelter, services and supportive housing for people who are currently homeless” (pp. 8). This act was initially viewed as being a progressive movement and it was believed by many that future acts would be passed in helping the homeless.
Historical perspectives help us to formulate an understanding of the increases in the homeless population. Trends demonstrate that economic recessions and/or depressions drastically increase the number of individuals that go homeless. As a result of the lessons learned from the Great Depression the United States government has enacted numerous programs to help individuals and prevent homelessness. In New York City there are more than 1,000 food pantries. Although food pantries help to ease the financial stresses on the family “every day they turn away over 2,500 people” (Youth Service Opportunities Project 2011 pp. 4). Food stamps is another form of prevention; providing needy families with money for groceries. The amount of money is determined by the number of people in the home. Despite these measures; homelessness remains a growing trend. Although these policies helped to prevention millions more from going homeless; they are not enough to service the population. Estimates conclude that one in twenty individuals in New York City will experience homelessness at some point. Furthermore, drastic increases in the needy associated with a recessed economy do not allow everyone to access these services as there simply is not enough to service the entire population.
Viewing homelessness from an individualized perspective serves as an indicator for developing future prevention programs. The mentally ill have always been vulnerable population that was more likely to be homeless. During the 1800’s little was known about mental illness. Estimates conclude that in 1830 only four psychiatric hospitals existed located in various parts of the United States (Stubbs 1998). In the early 1900’s the formation of National committee for Mental Hygiene helped to bring awareness to the growing problems associated with mental illnesses and homelessness. At the time it was believed the best possible solution was institutionalization. Institutionalization did a variety of things for society to ensure members remained safe. This policy also allowed homeless individuals with the ability to be taken care of. Yet asylums failed to do their main goal and rehabilitate. Instead many individuals suffered inhumane conditions and remained in these facilities until their demise.
In the early 1960’s then President Kennedy deinstitutionalized the mentally ill. Although this event was meant to help society; little planning for the needs of patients was done. This left many individuals being released from asylums with nowhere to go. The costs of medications was and continues to be a reoccurring problem as many individuals that suffer from mental illnesses need their medications to function but simply cannot afford them. This is further evident in the decreasing number of people being treated for mental illnesses on an inpatient basis. According to the University of Berkley (2000) “New York hospitalization rates per 100,000 state residents declined from 318 in 1971 to 49 in 1996” (p. 3). As hospitalization continues to decrease and the lack of government funding and prevention programs continue to increase homelessness is becoming a growing problematic trend evident throughout New York City.
Current trends in New York City demonstrates the need to increase section eight housing. Previous programs have been employed in order to prevent homelessness. Among these programs was the Advantage Program. The Advantage Program helped to provide short term housing in the form of vouchers for homeless people. However, this program failed to demonstrate long-term solutions (Coalition for the Homeless 2011). As a result, many previously homeless people that were rescued by the Advantage Program returned to being homeless.
IV. Literature Review
Scholarly literature acknowledges that multiple variables may leave certain populations at risk for becoming homeless. Among these variables include domestic abuse among women, drug and alcohol use/abuse among teenagers, sexuality and racial disparities that leave the African American population more susceptible as a whole to experiencing homelessness. Each individualized group will be examined and conclusions will be drawn based upon similarities.
Women make up a large portion of the homeless population. Finfgeld-Connet (2010) notes that 30% of women with children and 17% of single women are homeless. Women, like other populations may suffer from substance abuse or mental illnesses. However, women are more likely to be involved in domestic violence; which is often believed to be a contributing factor associated with homelessness. Netto (2006) further discusses African American women and their role in homelessness in noting that many of these women lack formal education. Coker, Meyer & Smith (2010) expand on these notions in discussing that homeless women often lack social skills and family support. In their research Coker, Meyer & Smith found that treating women with group therapy while they were in a homeless shelter provided positive results in helping to empower women, learn social support and exhibit higher levels of motivation necessary to change their life. Research has also shown that previous stresses play a role in the development of homelessness among women. Williams & Hall (2009) concluded that previous traumatic incidents experienced by women earlier in their life were positively correlated with a higher probability of becoming homeless in the future. Chapleau (2010) expands on these findings in noting that of all homeless people; the result of homelessness was more likely to be a process that occurred over a period of time.
Drug and alcohol abuse are common occurrences in homeless individuals. Day & Paul (2007) found in their study that beginning treatment and preventative attitudes as an adolescent served as a barrier preventing homelessness. However, Day & Paul further support the notion that family support is an important variable in helping adolescents from becoming addicted to a substance. Other research has determined that certain populations of adolescents maybe more at risk for becoming homeless and developing substance abuse problems. Corliss, Goodenow & Nichols (2011) found that in public high schools in Massachusetts 25% of the homeless population was homosexual. Lack of acceptance and family support is further believed to be a contributing factor in homosexual homelessness. Other commonly supported ideologies that increase adolescents and homelessness is the fact that many mental illnesses onset during adolescences. Khan (2010) demonstrated similar conclusions that expanded into adulthood in assessing that individual’s with severe mental illnesses were more likely to experience homelessness after institutionalization. Researchers found an additional variable that increases the correlation between homelessness and substance abuse; previous history in the military. Copeland, Miller & Welsh (2009) determined that individuals that have previously served in the military are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses.
Wakhisi (1995) discusses the impact of homelessness on the African American population in noting that African Americans that are homeless are more often homeless for longer periods of time than other racial groups. Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (2004) further expands on these issues in noting that new prevention programs are needed to aid and treat American Americans that suffer from substance abuse. Netto (2006) found in her research that African Americans are more likely to be underrepresented in determining the homeless population. Cooke (2004) demonstrated that formally incarcerated African Americans often have a harder time finding employment after their release; contributing to the increases in homelessness in the African American community.
V. Environmental Scan/Stakeholder Analysis
Stakeholder Does the stakeholder view the problem as a crisis? Is the stakeholder close to the problem? What does the stakeholder view as a solution? What does the stakeholder want to happen?
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development The information is not directly presented as a crisis. Homelessness is acknowledged. However, in order to find assistance with this agency one must go through various links. The stakeholder is close to the problem and aware of the increases in homelessness. Provide the individual with different forms of assistance. An individual can talk to a crisis counselor to find shelter if they are already homeless. Individuals that own homes can find assistance in an attempt to prevent foreclosure. Ideally, the stakeholder does not want consumers/the population to lose their homes. Homelessness is a growing problem. Furthermore, when millions of people lose their homes it drastically harms the economy and other aspects of society.
New York City Council’s General Welfare Committee and Public Housing Committee The stakeholder does view this problem as a crisis. The stakeholder is very close to this problem as it affects people throughout the state of New York. This committee helped to initiate the Advantage NY program. This program helps to provide soon to be homeless people or people that are already homeless with money to help them pay the rent. The goal of this program is to help the individual gain independence and take control of their life. The stakeholder wants to continue to develop and make necessary changes to programs in order to prevent more people from becoming homeless and reduce the already growing homeless population.
Homeless Services United Yes, this organization consists of 50 nonprofit organizations that assist individuals that are homeless or that are deemed at risk for homelessness The stakeholder is very close to the problem. The organization addresses the problem in multiple ways seeking to provide assistance. Numerous solutions have been addressed all seeking to end homelessness. This organization has worked closely with the various mayors of New York over the years in attempts of drafting solutions. The organization further provides advocacy and helps the individual to develop long-term strategies that will prevent homelessness. End homelessness in New York.
National Alliance to End Homelessness Yes; this organization works closely with homeless individuals. This organization seeks to provide services for the homeless and promote activism for all other individuals. Multiple strategies are addressed. Strategies vary based upon the circumstances. However, this organization offers services to the mentally ill, individuals that are being released from correctional systems, veterans and young adults. Although the programs vary; their main goal is to reduce homelessness by helping individuals to re-enter society. Prevent homelessness and help individuals that are currently homeless to reintegrate into society.
Partners Ending Homelessness Yes; this organization is dedicated at helping prevent homelessness. Examines the primary causations of homelessness and drafts solutions based upon the causation. This organization helps to provide medical services, social support, job training, supervision, counseling, transportation and childcare to prevent homelessness. On a secondary level; this organization seeks to provide permanent housing for individuals that are currently homeless. The stakeholders want to provide awareness of the causation of homelessness. In providing awareness, the stakeholders are helping people to realize that help is available.
VI. Proposed Solutions
Based upon the analysis of the problem; three main solutions are recommended in lessening homelessness. The first solution is to provide primary prevention. Individuals need to know where they can receive medical services at low costs, information about receiving disability and reduce cost prescriptions. The purpose of this solution is preventing people from becoming homeless. Without being physically or mentally able to maintain a job, many people will go homeless. Furthermore, many individuals pay large premiums to ensure they are able to get their medication. Yet individuals suffering from mental illnesses often do not examine other options such as qualifying for state health insurance or going to social services to receive treatment.
The second solution is to make people aware of their options prior to becoming homeless. Numerous solutions can alter the course of an individual’s life. Among these solutions maybe to rent out a room in a house, receive temporary assistance from the state of New York or move in with a family member or friend. However, other solutions exist as well. With the economic downward spiral many lenders are willing to work with customers in adjusting their mortgages. Banks have an interest in homelessness as well as the cost to foreclose upon a home and loss of revenues from the lost customer leave banks with few options to maintain profits. Despite the ideology that numerous services exist; many people do not know about these services. Furthermore, these services are heavily promoted on the internet; yet individuals that are at risk of losing their homes may not readily have access to the internet. Based upon this barrier, the solution is to make the information available at all city buildings, including libraries. This will be done in hopes that the information will be received by people in need or people that know someone that is in need.
The third solution focuses directly on homeless people. These individuals have often been through rough circumstances that may have diminished their confidence. Some may or may not suffer from mental illnesses. Others have families and are exposing their children to homelessness. Thus, the third solution is to provide training and support for these individuals to help them get out of their financial crisis and find a home. Job options for these individuals may be limited. Many employment opportunities require applicants to submit a resume online, provide an address and call back number. Yet for individuals that have lost their homes this information may be impossible to provide. With limited options available providing job training that increases the individuals skill level may help to booster their confidence and increase their marketability. Increasing social support is also included in this solution. Organizations need to run groups in order to help homeless individuals develop pro-social support. This will help the individual realize that he or she is not alone in their crisis and that many people have been in their situation. Furthermore, this will help the individual to develop the confidence in themselves that is needed to get their life back on track.
VII. Options Analysis Criteria
All of the solutions addressed are both feasible and practical. The first solution helps to ensure that people that need medical care receive affordable care. Helping individuals to get this care will reduce the number of people with mental illnesses that become homeless. This solution further seeks to reduce the costliness of life in hopes of reducing homelessness. Furthermore, preventing the problem before it begins will reduce the costs associated with housing and feeding the homeless.
The second solution is also feasible in the sense that it allows the information to reach people that may not have been able to identify services that are available to help. The costs associated with this service are minimal are require basic administrative tasks. Involving the various cities would allow for further cost reduction as the flyers would not need to be delivered. In contrast, the flyers can be emailed and then printed by the village. However, in comparing the costs associated with printing flyers to the costs of homelessness; printing and distributing flyers is a minor setback to the costliness associated with homelessness.
The third solution is the most costly proposed solution. This solution focuses on helping the individual that has become homeless to develop skills and support. Developing skills and allowing the individual space and resources to learn these skills is a difficult task. However, providing social support can be done at minimal costs. Many religious organizations and hospitals have support groups for various ailments. It is possible to arrange an individual working for a non-profit organization to visit the homeless shelter in providing these services at a minimal cost.
A fourth possible solution should be mentioned involving current changes in legislative policies in New York that allow for additional assistance for the homeless and increased availability in low income housing (section eight). Additionally, the legislation needs to focus on raising the current minimum wage. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (n.d.) the current minimum wage does not allow individuals to maintain a standard of living allowing them to rent and feed themselves. A strong need for this solution is needed. However, legislative change is a timely process that requires changes in the budget and approval. This solution should be the first solution to be employed; as it will result in helping the most people. Furthermore, the timeless of this solution is likely to be delayed due to the long process. Based upon this, starting this solution immediate and lobbying for legislation changes will help to ensure that less people in the future become homeless.
Recommendations include utilizing all of the proposed solutions. Each solution has its own target audience in preventing and reducing homelessness. By educating the community people become aware of the options available to them. Although these options may not always be ideal; they are viable options meant to help target different at risk populations. As previously noted many populations are at risk for developing homelessness. These solutions are based upon the potential homeless population as a whole. However, the solutions can be altered to fit the various needs of different groups in need. The costs associated with these tasks are minimal in comparison to reducing the rising rates of the homeless. Overall, the timeliness of the various solutions will differ; making it crucial that these solutions begin immediately.