Why New York City has the Highest Homeless Population in America

New York City is declared as the city with the highest homeless population in America; the city has close to 78,000 people experiencing homelessness and a homelessness rate is 0.89%. Here are some factors as to why NYC has such a high homeless population and what the city has been doing in response.

The Coalition for the Homeless states that in “recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression in the 1930s.” In just June 2022, New York City has been estimated to contain over 50,000 people facing homelessness sleeping each night in the main municipal shelter system, with around 16,000 of those people being children. The rest of the population live outside of shelters. As far as demographics, New Yorkers who are Black and Hispanic are more so affected by homelessness. Specifically, 56% of those in shelters are Black, 32% are Latinx and Hispanic, and 7% are White. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that out of all those experiencing homelessness in New York, approximately 15,000 were family households, 1,300 were Veterans, 3,000 were unaccompanied young adults 18-24 years of age, and 7,500 were experiencing chronic homelessness.

A vital reason as to why New York has a high homeless population has to do with the lack of affordable housing. The Apartment List shows that the average rental price for a single-bedroom apartment in New York City is $2,045; in Manhattan, the rental price can go as high as over $4,000. New York City is so expensive to live in nowadays simply due to the large population of around 20 million people. Since New York City is revered and known as the main center for all things related to business, finance, and the arts, many people may be drawn to live in the city. Furthermore, the city is known to contain the headquarters for many popular businesses and thus appears filled with increasing job opportunities, causing the population to only grow higher.

Moreover, it is really easy for a New York City resident to be unhoused. The Coalition for the Homeless claims that research has shown that there are several immediate triggers to homelessness which includes, eviction, overcrowded housing, domestic violence, job loss, and dangerous housing conditions. Along with the soaring pricing of rent for apartments in NYC, it can be really difficult for a person to return to normalcy after facing these life-changing events. 

Despite the growing homeless population in need of help, the city has in some instances hurt those experiencing homelessness. For example, the city has implemented anti-homeless architecture in some public settings. What was once a wide bench someone could sleep on, has been made into a curved bench with multiple dividers, prohibiting people from laying down. Furthermore, there have been instances of spikes being put on fire hydrants, which people could sit on, and uncomfortable spikes on sidewalks, which people could sleep on. These architecture were created in efforts to prevent problems such as vandalism and to maintain order, but have proved to be harmful to the lives of those facing homelessness who are just trying to find a place to rest. 

Nevertheless, in efforts to make a change and support those experiencing homelessness in New York City, New York officials announced their plan to establish eleven hotels as shelters for those in need of a place to stay. Earlier in 2022, the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, proposed a $171 million investment for homeless services, which includes 900 specialized shelter beds in upgraded facilities with more services. More recently, Mayor Adams released a plan that would make New York housing rentals and homeownership more affordable. 

Homelessness is a big issue in New York City. While progress has been made to combat the issue of homelessness in New York, more work needs to be done as the population has doubled in the last decade. The Coalition for the Homeless states that, “New York State must end this crisis and invest in the most cost-effective strategy proven to solve homelessness for those with the greatest needs: supportive housing.” Supportive housing is housing that is both affordable and contains supportive services. It is predicted that 35,000 units of supportive housing within the next ten years can help the lives of those facing homelessness in New York City and finally end the destructive crisis.


Scroll to Top