Ian Frazier reports on a troubling trend:
[T]here are far more homeless people in [New York City] today than there have been since “modern homelessness” (as experts refer to it) began, back in the nineteen-seventies. Most New Yorkers I talk to do not know this. They say they thought there were fewer homeless people than before, because they see fewer of them. In fact, during the twelve years of the Bloomberg administration, the number of homeless people has gone through the roof they do not have.
There are now two hundred and thirty-six homeless shelters in the city. Imagine Yankee Stadium almost four-fifths full of homeless families; about eighteen thousand adults in families in New York City were homeless as of January, 2013, and more than twenty-one thousand children. The [Coalition for the Homeless] says that during Bloomberg’s twelve years the number of homeless families went up by seventy-three per cent. One child out of every hundred children in the city is homeless.
The number of homeless single adults is up, too, but more of them are in programs than used to be, and some have taken to living underground, in subway tunnels and other places out of sight. Homeless individuals who do frequent the streets may have a philosophical streak they share with passersby, and of course they sometimes panhandle. Homeless families, by contrast, have fewer problems of mental illness and substance abuse, and they mostly stay off the street. If you are living on the street and you have children, they are more likely to be taken away and put in foster care. When homeless families are on the street or on public transportation, they are usually trying to get somewhere. If you see a young woman with big, wheeled suitcases and several children wearing backpacks on a train bound for some far subway stop, they could be homeless. Homeless families usually don’t engage with other passengers, and they seldom panhandle.
(Photo: An empty lot is viewed on January 25, 2012 in New York City. Homeless activist group Picture the Homeless will release findings from a new study conducted with Hunter College in which a count of vacant buildings and lots in 20 of NYC’s 59 community boards was conducted. The findings, which will be released tomorrow in full, found that vacant properties in New York City could house every homeless person and more. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images)