The sad numbers of homelessness

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

April 2, 2014 2:25:52 PM PDT
The next time you think things are tough, financially, for your family, consider this: Right now in New York City homeless shelters, there are more than 53,000 families. That's more than the population of Hoboken, New Jersey.

That's more people than sit in Yankee Stadium.

And the worst part is that 44 percent of those people are kids, and about 40 percent of those kids are under the age of 5.

It's the biggest homeless shelter population in New York City modern times. And it's a crime. We went looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 10 years ago ? and spent hundreds of billions ? and found nothing.

Homelessness is a kind of weapon of mass destruction, and we don't have to look hard for it in New York.

The average stay of a family in a city shelter is now 14 months.

Today, it was my honor to moderate a candid panel, sponsored by Women in Need, in the search for real answers about how to solve the problem, how to deal with it, and how to prevent the kind of trauma and spiraling chaos on family's lives that comes when there's no home.

Many of the families are headed by women, and we know the hard truth is that a family is only as mentally and emotionally healthy as its mother.

The new Commissioner for Homeless Services in New York City, Gilbert Taylor, has his work cut out for him. It will be made easier by new language in the state budget that will allow for housing subsidies for homeless families ? subsidies that the Bloomberg Administration didn't renew. Not a slam on the former Mayor ? he desperately wanted to cut the homeless population. But someone didn't follow up, and the subsidy expired. The skyrocketing shelter population happened after that ? it's up 62% since 2012.

Commissioner Taylor also announced that all city human service agencies will coordinate their efforts to better serve homeless families.

What no one could control at the panel discussion is what's needed most ? new jobs. Solving this ? and other problems ? won't happen by just rearrange deck chairs, or slicing the existing revenue pie. It will come from expanding revenues. A job would go a long way to solve a homeless family's problems.

So that's the back-beat, for me, as we prep tonight's 11 p.m. newscast.

We'll have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg with his AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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