Housing the Homeless


For the past dozen years, Pathways to Housing, a New York City nonprofit organization, has been helping to reduce the problem of chronic homelessness by a radical strategy: giving homes to people with histories of mental illness. Most of Pathways clients also have substance-abuse problems. These are the very people most housing programs do not consider eligible even to apply for housing.

On any given night, somewhere between eight hundred thousand and a million Americans are homeless. Across the United States, many cities, despite the repeated heralding of plans “to end homelessness,” struggle merely to keep the situation from worsening. In New York City, halfway into Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vaunted five-year plan to reduce the homeless population by two-thirds, the number of homeless families is at an all-time high, with more than ninety-five hundred families using the shelter system every night. Over the past year, there has been a 23-percent rise in the number of families entering the system, and an 11-percent decline in those moving into permanent housing. With Congress’s Joint Economic Committee now predicting 2 million foreclosures on subprime mortgages by the end of 2008, one must wonder: What will happen when the housing needs of these displaced families put added pressure on the rental market and city shelters?

In New York City, families are not “automatically admitted” to shelters when they...

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About the Author

Jay Neugeboren is the author of seven novels, five books of nonfiction, and three short-story collections.