Question LT Education

How does homelessness affect New York City?

How does homelessness affect New York City?

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Answer Internal Staff

Homelessness has reached record highs as measured by the population moving through homeless shelters in the city (Fessenden, 2016). In addition, these measures may not take into account those who do not use the shelters, which could constitute a large figure.

The level of homelessness can be a representation of economic and social problems within the city, but in itself can also constitute an issue.

Homelessness can lead to desperation, and this in turn may lead to problems such as crime or substance abuse (Abbott, 1994). These problems can cause the issue to affect a wider portion of the population beyond those who are themselves homeless. In turn this places increased strain on law enforcement, which can affect this services ability to respond to other incidents. The combination of exposure to adverse climatic conditions, poor nutrition and the dangers of homelessness can be detrimental to health among those affected.

It can also be noted that homelessness can be difficult to escape, as it acts as a barrier to gaining employment and thus to gaining the income to escape homelessness.

New York city is legally required to provide housing for those who are homeless, contrary to other major cities, this results in a larger population for shelters in comparison (Fessenden, 2016). This thus means that homelessness is an expensive problem for the city and can divert funds which could be used elsewhere.


Abbott, M. B., 1994, Homelessness and Substance Abuse: Is Mandatory Treatment the Solution? Fordham Urban Law Journal, 22(1), available: []

Fessenden, F., 2016, A Homeless Epidemic in New York? Thousands Hit the Cold Streets to Find Out, New York Times, Available: []