The number of homeless sleeping each night in the New York City shelter system has surpassed 50,000 people, for the first time in three decades. According to a report by the Coalition for the Homeless, more children and adults are homeless now in New York City than at any time since the Great Depression.
While many turn to shelters, a skyrocketing number of people have sought refuge in the city's subway stations and carts, notably in the brutally cold winter months. According to the city's annual HopeNYC street survey, there were more than 1,800 people living on the subways in 2013, up from 1,000 in 2009.
Last week, it was reported that transit workers and the NYPD had set up a plan to clear homeless men and women out of the subway system starting Monday at 3am. However, after facing opposition by advocacy groups and a report in the local news outlet DNAinfo, they were forced to tone down their language insisting the so-called “outreach program” was to be voluntary.
The move was to be part of a new ambitious $6M outreach effort by city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set to officially launch in July 2014. It's planned to triple non-profit subway workers, who will regularly seek to engage the homeless in all 468 stations and on trains while they are in service. The program will be run by the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a non profit organization providing support to those in need.
With The homeless population above and below ground at an all time high, many believe that significant progress will come only with an increased supply of permanent housing for families and support services for the mentally ill.