Families have become a larger share of the nation's homeless population, growing 1.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. But in New York City that growth has been much steeper—22 percent—a record number, reports the The Wall Street Journal.
The number of homeless families has seen a sharp increase in the city, 73 percent since 2002. And an average of more than 50,000 families slept in city shelters for the first time in January, according to a report released today by the Coalition for the Homeless.
"New York is facing a homeless crisis worse than any time since the Great Depression," said Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless.
More than 21,000 children—an unprecedented 1% of the city's youth—slept each night in a city shelter in January.
According to economists, the surge in the number of families without permanent housing was accelerated by the financial crisis, which put many lower-middle class families out of their homes. And although the city has regained all the jobs it lost in the recession, they are lower-wage jobs.
Advocates also point to the end of rent subsidy and housing assistance programs as part of the growing homeless problem:
In 2005, Bloomberg's administration ended a policy that had been working successfully since the 90s, which allocated a share of federal public-housing apartments and federal housing vouchers to homeless families.
And then, in 2011, the state ended a program that subsidized rent for people leaving shelters. The loss of those types of programs, coupled with the flailing economy have meant the number homeless families have gone up 35 percent since, according to shelter records.