Homelessness Rises in New York, L.A.

The number of homeless people in New York City rose past 60,000 in 2012 even as it was dropping nationally, according to a federal report released Nov. 21. One out of every nine homeless people in the country was here, either on the streets or in a shelter, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said. 

HUD’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress estimated that there were 610,000 homeless people in the U.S. as of last January, based on a one-night “snapshot” survey conducted by local homeless-service agencies in more than 400 areas. That represented a slight drop from the 634,000 found in 2012. The department also estimated a 16 percent decline in the number of  “chronically homeless”—people without regular housing for a year or more or with at least four periods of being homeless in the past three years—from about 110,000 in 2010 to about 93,000 in January. 

But the survey found significantly more people homeless in the nation’s two largest cities. In New York, there were about 64,000, up 13 percent from 2012. In Los Angeles County, which includes the city and its inner suburbs, there were 54,000, a 27 percent increase. 

Those two cities have dramatically more homeless people than anywhere else in the country. No other city had more than 10,000: Seattle had 9,100, San Diego 8,900, and Las Vegas 7,400. The combined total for the four main counties in the San Francisco Bay Area—including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Silicon Valley—was slightly more than 20,000. Overall, the report said, more than half the nation’s homeless were in California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts.

Homeless New Yorkers are much more likely to be in families and much less likely to be on the streets, according to the report. Here, HUD estimated, 65 percent of the homeless were in families. Nationally, the proportions were almost exactly reversed, with 64 percent individuals and 36 percent in families—including almost 140,000 children. In Los Angeles, seven-eighths of the homeless were individuals.

The survey also estimated that 35 percent of the nation’s homeless people and more than two-thirds of the chronically homeless were “living in unsheltered locations such as under bridges, in cars, or in abandoned buildings.” In Los Angeles, more than 40,000 people were unsheltered, three-fourths of the total. But in New York City, 95 percent were living in shelters or transitional housing, with only about 3,200 people on the streets. On the other hand, the report claimed that there were no homeless families here living without shelter.

The proportions of homeless people in some kind of shelter were similar in other cities with cold Januaries. In Boston, it was 97 percent of 5,900 people; in Philadelphia, 91 percent of 5,600; in Washington, 93 percent of 6,900; in Chicago, 81 percent of 6,300; and in Minneapolis, 95 percent of 3,600. But in California, two-thirds of homeless people were unsheltered, and in Florida, 59 percent were. In Pasco County, the fast-growing northern part of the Tampa Bay area, barely 100 of the 3,300 homeless people were in shelters.