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Benchmarking Homeless Shelter Performance: A Proposal for Easing America's Homeless Crisis

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Benchmarking Homeless Shelter Performance: A Proposal for Easing America's Homeless Crisis

October 4, 2018
Urban PolicyOther

Editor's note: The following is the seventh chapter of Urban Policy 2018 published by the Manhattan Institute.


Homelessness remains a problem in many U.S cities, no more so than in New York City. New York spends more than $2 billion a year to provide temporary housing to 14,500 homeless single adults and 15,200 families, about 60,000 people in all (with thousands more living on the streets and in the subway system). And that does not count the hundreds of millions of dollars the city also spends on prevention efforts aimed at reducing the number entering shelters and rental-subsidy programs to facilitate their exit. Nonetheless, the “crisis,” as it is referred to by numerous observers and the city itself, shows little sign of abating.

During his tenure as mayor, Bill de Blasio has twice put forth plans to reform the delivery of homeless services. Improving shelters—making them safer and cleaner—has been his administration’s top priority. But the administration has paid much less attention to the ability of shelter operators to move homeless adults and families out of their facilities and back into the community. To do so, New York City—as well as other large American municipalities—should draw on a system pioneered by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg (mayor from 2002–2013).

Beginning in 2003, New York City set up a system of performance benchmarking and financial incentives known as the Performance Incentive Program (PIP).  

In the program, shelter operators had their performance quantitatively evaluated and published in regularly issued public reports, ranking them against peers that serve similar populations. The performance was mainly determined based on the rate at which shelter operators placed adult- and family-shelter clients back into independent housing in the community, their average length of stay, and the rate at which formerly homeless people returned to shelters. High performers received bonuses, and low performers faced a serious threat of loss of their contracts.

The Bloomberg administration viewed PIP as essential to its efforts in reducing the number of people living in shelters and their length of stay—and there is evidence to suggest that PIP did just that. Almost every instance in which the city has managed to reduce the shelter census or average length of stay on an annual basis has occurred when PIP was active. After assuming office in January 2014, however, Mayor de Blasio let PIP lapse.

A Short History of New York City's Shelter System

New York City’s shelter system developed in response to the emergence of the “modern” homelessness problem in the late 1970s. Prior to that time, the homeless population consisted mainly of indigent single men suffering from high rates of alcoholism.1 Today, most homeless New Yorkers are members of families, most of which are headed by single mothers (Figure 1).2 The homeless population now faces substance-abuse disorders other than alcoholism, as well as a high rate of serious mental illness.

New York’s response to modern homelessness evolved over four decades by five mayoral administrations. Two landmark events stand out.

New York City, homeless shelters

A “Right” to Shelter

The first landmark event emerged from a lawsuit brought by advocates for the homeless against the city and state in 1979. Plaintiffs in Callahan v. Carey claimed that New York was abrogating its constitutional obligation to provide temporary housing for homeless single men, basing their argument for a “right to shelter” on a clause in the New York Constitution.3 Mayor Edward Koch settled the case in 1981 by signing a consent decree that conferred a right to shelter to single men (subsequent litigation and settlements extended the right to single women and families).4

The legal right to shelter may have reduced the percentage of unsheltered or street homelessness in New York City, though its effect is difficult to disentangle from other factors, such as New York’s long tradition of generosity in social-services spending and its harsh winter climate.5 Other cities that do not have a right to shelter (Philadelphia), or a much more qualified one (Boston and Washington, D.C.), have nearly the same rate of sheltered homeless (Figure 2). Counting unsheltered homeless is far from a precise science, so a difference of a few percentage points may not be consequential.

New York City, homeless shelters

The right to shelter under the Callahan v. Carey consent decree has been interpreted to mean a right to immediate shelter—adults and families must be placed in temporary housing the day they apply for it. Thus, city government has been forced to resort to forms of temporary housing—hotels and “cluster site” shelters jury-rigged in apartment buildings—that are widely seen as inferior to facilities designed for the specific purpose of housing the homeless. The result has been a very low quality of shelter offered to homeless families and single adults in recent years. More basically, the right to shelter has given legal advocates an outsize role in shaping the city’s response to homelessness. For many years, judges and lawyers from the Legal Aid Society and representing the Coalition for the Homeless have had more influence over how New York should respond to the homelessness challenge than many of the city’s elected representatives.6

“Not for Profitization”

The second landmark event in New York’s modern homeless policy was “The Way Home: A New Direction in Social Policy,” a 1992 report of the Cuomo Commission—a task force convened by Mayor David Dinkins, whose administration was facing a political crisis over its handling of homelessness.7 The report’s two most consequential recommendations were the creation of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) as a separate city agency and a policy of privatization or, more precisely, “not-for-profitization.” The city was mostly to get out of the business of operating homeless shelters. Instead, the new DHS would set overall policy and “function as a ‘general contractor’ for the system,” with the frontline work of sheltering the homeless and transitioning them back into the community done by a network of government-funded nonprofits.8 Mayor Dinkins’s successor, Rudy Giuliani, implemented the Cuomo Commission’s recommendations.9

In the early 1990s, many governments were exploring ways to employ the private sector in pursuing public goods in areas such as transportation, elementary and secondary education, and sanitation services. Though the term “privatization” remains controversial in some circles, reliance on government-funded private contractors remains a foundational component of social policymaking in New York City. During FY 2017, the city administered more than 9,000 active contracts worth $22.6 billion for “human services.” About 400 of these contracts, worth $4.8 billion, were with the DHS.10

New York City's Shelter System Today

New York City’s DHS oversees about 580 shelter facilities spread throughout the five boroughs.11 The city spent $1.3 billion on family- and adult-shelter services in FY 2017, a sum larger than outlays on libraries and parks combined.12 According to a 2015 report, New York City is host to roughly one-quarter of all the emergency-shelter beds in the nation.13

New York City, homeless shelters

Homelessness in New York City has been termed a “crisis” by the administration, advocates, politicians of both parties, and various media organizations.14 As of late 2017, there were about 14,500 single adults and 15,200 families living in the DHS shelter system. Throughout de Blasio’s first term (January 2014 to December 2017), the number of families in shelters increased by 2,879, or 23%, while the number of single adults increased 4,657, or 47% (Figure 3). In raw numbers, 50,954 adults and children were in shelters on January 1, 2014, and 59,933 on December 31, 2017. Single adults are staying in a shelter about 100 days longer than they were, on average, in January 2014; and 37 days in the case of adult families (couples without children).15 The average length of stay for families with children is now about six days shorter than it was in January 2014 (Figure 4).

New York City, homeless shelters

Providing temporary housing to single adults and families entails different managerial challenges. The single adult population has higher rates of substance abuse and serious mental illness; families need larger units, privacy is a greater concern, and the city strives to place family clients in a shelter near their children’s schools.16 Single adult homelessness, sheltered and unsheltered, is a significant driver of many so-called “quality of life” concerns in city neighborhoods such as panhandling and public urination.17 Family and single-adult shelters are also funded differently. City tax revenues constitute a much larger proportion of the adult-shelter-services budget than that of family services (Figure 5).18

New York City, homeless shelters

State regulations require that many services be provided to shelter clients. In testimony given late in 2016, city officials noted 70 shelters (47 for single adults, 23 for families with children) that provide onsite health care, with other facilities referring clients who need medical services to nearby providers offsite with whom the provider has a “linkage agreement”; additionally, “many shelters have art therapists, occupational therapists and recreational activities such as outings, yoga and health classes.”19 On the single-adult side, they noted 27 “special program” mental-health shelters and nine substance-use-disorder shelters.20 Traditional, or “Tier II” family shelters (distinct from cluster sites and hotels), are required to provide child care (though a recent report by the city comptroller found that not all providers were in compliance).21 All shelters are required to provide three nutritious meals a day.

The right to shelter is balanced by “Client Responsibility” rules that were first proposed under Mayor Giuliani—fought against for seven years by the Legal Aid Society—and implemented during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first term.22 The rules remain in place today.

Both family and single-adult shelter clients must develop, with the provider staff, an Independent Living Plan (ILP).23 In the words of Steven Banks, commissioner of the Department of Social Services, the ILP forms the core of a client’s “[shelter] exit plan and an individualized pathway towards sustainable permanency.” Developing an ILP entails compiling vital documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, “a comprehensive assessment of the family’s current level of housing readiness as well as an individualized and special needs assessment” by a case manager, an exploration of housing possibilities with friends and family, the provision, directly or through a referral, of educational, employment, medical and mental-health services, and preparation for apartment viewings and interviews. Clients are instructed about how to comport themselves when viewing apartments and are even provided with professional attire, if necessary. Clients view apartments along with provider staff and are given help in moving when a suitable apartment is found. Clients who are able to work are required to obtain and maintain employment.24 They must “apply for and use any benefits and resources that will reduce or eliminate the need for temporary housing assistance”25 and “actively seek housing other than temporary housing... and not unreasonably refuse or fail to accept any such housing.”26 Shelter clients must also “refrain from engaging in acts which endanger the health or safety of oneself or others, or which substantially and repeatedly interfere with the orderly operation of a temporary housing facility.”27 Noncompliance with DHS rules can lead to a client’s loss of shelter.28

Single Adults and Families

Since the 1990s, families seeking to enter the shelter system have been subjected to an eligibility process.29 All families must enter through the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) intake center in the Bronx, where they receive a temporary shelter placement lasting, on average, 10 days, which turns into a permanent placement if they are found eligible. PATH staff scrutinizes a shelter applicant’s two-year housing history and interviews friends and family with whom they had recently lived to ascertain if they have nowhere else “safe and appropriate” to stay, even on a temporary basis, and are indeed in immediate need of emergency shelter.30 Intensive efforts are made to connect these families with prevention resources.31

Each month, DHS denies more than 1,000 petitions for family shelter. In his 2013 mayoral campaign, de Blasio criticized existing city shelter policy for its “unfair and overly punitive eligibility review rules that deny shelter to too many needy families.” Accordingly, in late 2015, the de Blasio administration sought greater leeway to grant shelter access from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which regulates city shelter services. However, one year later, after the eligibility rate had risen, the de Blasio administration asked the state to restore the previous authority of DHS to explore the possibility of keeping shelter applicants housed in an apartment leased to a family member or friend.33 Advocates opposed this move,34 which has brought eligibility rates closer to historical levels (Figure 6).

New York City, homeless shelters

Single adults are not subject to an eligibility process.35 From a policy perspective, this is considered prudent because of the risk of increasing street homelessness. New York’s most recent estimate of its unsheltered homeless population found that it was composed almost entirely of single adults.36 The Bloomberg administration tried to institute eligibility for singles, believing that it had taken sufficient steps to minimize the risk of expanding unsheltered homelessness.37 This action was strenuously opposed by homeless advocates.38 Ultimately, the courts denied the Bloomberg administration the ability to impose an eligibility process for single adults.39

Progressives often cite increased use of government benefit resources as evidence of effective governance and express concern that some programs may be under-enrolled.40 Temporary housing benefits are an exception. In public debate, the shelter census tends to function as a scorecard that tracks whether the city is succeeding or failing at efforts to help the homeless. Shelter is seen somewhat like emergency-room usage: necessary but regrettable. This perception has fueled a growing emphasis on prevention and rental subsidies, designed to keep people from entering shelters and facilitating their exit, respectively.41 While spending on homeless services, in general, has doubled under the de Blasio administration, the growth has been driven mainly by programs other than shelter (Figure 7). Shelter accounted for only 57% of all homeless-services spending in FY17. Total spending on homeless services recently reached $3 billion, with roughly $2 billion devoted towards adult and family shelter operations.42


New York City, homeless shelters

Though hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have benefited from Mayor de Blasio’s prevention and rental-subsidy programs, the shelter census has continued to rise (Figure 3) and is expected to remain high for the foreseeable future.43 Mayor de Blasio projects a 4% decrease (2,500 people) in sheltered homelessness by 2022, which would leave levels still at a historical peak. Only a decrease in the number of homeless families is projected; the administration assumes that the number of homeless single adults and adult families (couples without children) will continue to increase in coming years.44

The mayor has twice put forth plans to reform homeless services: the “90 Day Review,” released in April 2016; and the “Turning the Tide” plan of February 2017.45 In response to a series of spectacular tragedies and several highly critical reports, great emphasis has been placed on improving shelter conditions.46 Thousands of shelter inspections have been conducted and thousands of code violations addressed.47 The budget for shelter security has been doubled and now exceeds $200 million. The city government has brought in the NYPD to oversee safety operations in shelters.48 These increased investments in the physical plant of shelters and security have been accompanied by revisions to the city’s efforts at benchmarking levels of safety and cleanliness.49 A February 2018 Daily News report criticized the city’s revisions to its definition of “critical incidents” on the grounds that it had exaggerated levels of safety in shelter system.50 The city’s determination to improve shelter conditions has also driven its efforts to end contracts with a few grossly negligent providers, as well as its plan to phase out the use of cluster sites and hotels by 2021 and 2023, respectively.51 (In the near term, the planned phase-out of cluster sites will actually entail an increased use of hotels.)52 This is expected to enable the city to reduce the total number of shelter locations by almost 50%, even while it plans to expand “traditional” shelters by 90 new facilities and increase capacity at 30 existing ones.53

Shelter Outcomes Versus Shelter Conditions

In New York, shelter services have always meant more than just providing a clean, safe place to stay. In the most recent “Mayor’s Management Report,” DHS stipulates that one of its overarching goals is to “help individuals and families transition to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.”54 This entails that the agency not only ensure that “all temporary shelters for homeless individuals and families are clean, safe, and well-run” but also that it “[f]acilitate exits and minimize clients’ length of stay in shelters.”55 Shelter outcomes—as opposed to shelter conditions—concern how effective providers are at moving clients toward an independent living situation in the community as quickly as possible.

The virtue of the not-for-profitization shelter system is not so much that private organizations would be better than the city at providing a clean safe place to stay; instead, the theory was that these organizations would be more effective at establishing self-sufficiency.

Improving shelter outcomes and enhancing shelter conditions are two different tasks that sometimes are in tension with each other. The more comfortable an adult or a family feels in a temporary housing situation, the weaker the motivation could become to move back into the community. At a time when shelter conditions are said to be generally improving, like the present, it becomes all the more incumbent on shelter operators to work to place their clients in stable, independent housing.

Under Mayor de Blasio, however, the issue of shelter outcomes has been eclipsed by that of shelter conditions. The administration could have a policy rationale for ordering DHS’s priorities in this manner, or it could simply be responding to pressure from the many negative reports about shelter conditions and safety.

Bloomberg's Performance Incentive Program

Whatever the reason for de Blasio’s priorities, shelter outcomes received far more attention under his predecessor. In 2003, the Bloomberg administration launched the Performance Incentive Program (PIP), a system of benchmarking and financial incentives for shelter providers. Building on earlier efforts by the Giuliani administration,56 PIP measured providers’ rate of housing placements, clients’ length of stay, and the rate of return to shelter. The city set basic placement targets to ensure at least a minimum number of move-outs per year. Points were also awarded for “process”-type shelter functions, such as ensuring that clients were signed up for appropriate benefit programs and that their housing applications had been filed in a timely manner.57 Each shelter’s successes were tallied up to a final score. Shelter scores were published in quarterly rankings, where providers (and the city) could compare their own facilities against other providers that dealt with similar populations, as well as in an individualized report card. Providers were given financial rewards for performance and risked a loss of funding for failing to achieve their benchmarks.58 The financial incentives ranged around 10% of the facility’s base budget.

Figures 8 and 9, respectively, show examples of how Bloomberg’s PIP rated shelters: a systemwide “results card” for single adults from 2009; and a report card for an individual family shelter provider from 2011. Figure 8 shows that providers working with similar populations, the same housing market, and the same array of rental-subsidy programs placed at their disposal by the city met with varying results. Of the seven substance-abuse shelters, some experienced a 2% “recidivism” rate, i.e., a return to shelter within six months, whereas others’ rates were as high as 24%. Of the mental-health-shelter providers—which deal with some of the most challenging cases in the entire shelter system—most (11) experienced a recidivism rate of less than 10%. And for the cohort of 49 as a whole, 34 adult shelters in calendar 2009 met at least 90% of the target set by the city (indicating that standards in this particular year were not unrealistic), though some hit less than 50% of the target.

New York City, homeless shelters

New York City, homeless shelters


An “assessment” shelter is where clients go after intake while it is being determined which shelter placement would best suit their needs; “next step” shelters were started by the Bloomberg administration. They provide intensive case management to long-term stayers.

New York City, homeless shelters

One year’s results should be kept in context: some shelters serve a small population, and their outcome data could be influenced, for instance, by a handful of difficult cases. But these results are striking and prompt important questions as to why some providers may be surpassing others in rates of placement and return to shelter.

The Bloomberg administration saw PIP as one part of a general approach to homelessness that included not only prevention and rental subsidies but specific obligations placed on clients as well as shelter providers to work toward the goal of self-sufficiency. From FY 2005 to FY 2010, the average length of stay for single adults declined every year. In 18 other instances, under Bloomberg, the average length of stay or average daily count declined for families or adults (Figure 10; years of decline have been shaded). Bloomberg cited PIP as one factor in these successes.59 His administration’s successes in keeping down the shelter census were, of course, only temporary; other factors, such as conditions in the low-rent housing market, would have to be explored. Moreover, any comparison between the two mayors’ administrations has to consider that Bloomberg completed three terms in office, compared with de Blasio’s one. But it can be said that, since 2003, most instances in which the city managed to reduce the census or length of stay have occurred when PIP was active.


New York City, homeless shelters

The financial incentives for family-shelter providers were ended in 2012 because the state OTDA withdrew its approval.60 The single-adult financial incentives remained in place into the beginning of the de Blasio administration but have since been discontinued. The last time provider rankings for either adult- or family-shelter services providers were published was calendar 2013.61 The city claims to be reevaluating its shelter accountability framework and protocol for compensating providers. Its timeline, as well as what kind of metrics will be used, remains uncertain, though the administration has mentioned a desire to move away from a “one size fits all” approach to housing placements out of shelter, particularly with regard to families.62

The Case for Holding Shelter Providers More Accountable

The de Blasio administration has shut down providers for instances of egregious abuse.63 But scrutiny should also be applied to shelters that, though not abusing their clients, are not doing enough to move them along to self-sufficiency. The city is not doing enough to distinguish between poor-, mediocre-, and high-performing providers. As the de Blasio administration is embarking on its expansion of the shelter system and projecting high levels of homeless for years to come, this is an oversight that should be corrected promptly.

The way to do so is to relaunch the performance benchmarking program, both for family- and single-adult shelter providers. Providers with similar populations should be compared, in publicly available reports posted at least annually, in terms of their average length of stay, move-out rates, and rates of return to shelter. All such move-out metrics should constitute 75% of whatever score is given providers.

Shelter is an intervention that should be as brief and effective as possible. As with jails, mental hospitals, and foster care, there is a great risk that staying in a homeless shelter is preparing someone to be homeless, instead of for a life of independence. The public reports should provide more than rankings or tallies of final scores. They should indicate, in figures and language understandable to those outside the social-services world, exactly how well each of the city’s hundreds of shelter providers is succeeding at keeping its clients from staying too long and minimizing the rate of return after they’ve left.

What we measure depends on what we believe we want shelters to do. Some providers do important work in the area of employment services. And so long as there are thousands of seriously mentally ill people in the shelter system, mental-health services will be necessary, and we should be interested in which shelters do better work than others in this area. In the case of such special program shelters, success in mental health, substance-abuse treatment, and employment programs’ outcomes could also be tracked.

But none of those metrics should outweigh the average length of stay, rate of placements, and rates of return. The public transparency aspect of performance benchmarking suffers when the metrics become overly individualized and complicated. Test scores, for example, are not the only way to evaluate whether a school is good, but they are an essential starting point. Concerns about overemphasis on short-term placements out of shelter can be met by monitoring rates of return: the goal is stable housing in the community, not “churn” from shelter to the community and then back to shelter. Special program shelters that excel at employment and treatment efforts are very likely to also experience low rates of return. (DHS has tracked system-wide rates of return for many years.) Providers should be free to continue to raise private funds to enhance their service offerings. But in terms of their core, government-funded mission, the emphasis should remain on sustainable move-outs.

In addition to benchmarking, the city administration should institute financial incentives. High performers should be rewarded with a financial bonus valued at 5%–10% of their base shelter contract. The ideal solution for low performers would be to put them on watch and then, in the absence of improvement, transfer their work to a higher-performing provider with the capacity to take on the additional client load. The low-performing facility could remain in place and be taken over by another organization (i.e., changing shelter operators would not entail a controversy over where to site a new facility).


Homelessness remains a daunting challenge. The de Blasio administration has shifted the city’s target from the Bloomberg-era goal, to “overcome” homelessness, to managing the problem.64 Increased investment in prevention and rental subsidies should make the work of shelter providers easier. That was certainly the view of the Bloomberg administration. DHS commissioner Steven Banks recently testified that, though the rental market remains tight, with the aid of the rental-subsidy programs that the de Blasio administration set up, “[w]e’re funding substantial numbers of apartments” for shelter clients.65

Banks’s confidence in the administration’s ability to make headway with the crisis is backed up, in a sense, by data that show that only 7.5% of the city’s homeless population (5,755) is classified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as “chronic”—meaning an individual or a head of household who suffers from a disability or diagnosable disorder and has been homeless for a year or four times in the preceding three years.66 This rate is less than half the rate of the chronic homeless population for the nation as a whole (Figure 1). In FY 2017, more than 17,000 single adults and family units exited shelter, about 7,800 of which did so without the assistance of any subsidy program.67 While the low-rent rental market remains tight and shelter recidivism remains a concern, it appears that independent living in the community remains in reach for most shelter clients.

An earlier version of this paper was published by the Manhattan Institute in March 2018.


  1. Michael D. Zettler, The Bowery (New York: Drake Publishers, 1975).
  2. NYC, Office of the Mayor, “De Blasio Administration to Help Prevent Homelessness by Adding Resources to Keep New Yorkers in Their Homes,” Sept. 28, 2015: “Women lead 91 percent of the families with children in shelter.”
  3. The clause in question, from Article XVII, reads: “The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may from time to time determine.”
  4. Thomas J. Main, Homelessness in New York City: Policymaking from Koch to de Blasio (New York: New York University Press, 2017), ch. 1; Joel Blau, The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), ch. 7; NYC, Office of the Mayor, “Mayor Bloomberg Announces Settlement with the Legal Aid Society Ending 25-Year Litigation and Court Oversight of Homeless Family Services System,” Sept. 17, 2008.
  5. For recent discussion of why communities experience different rates of homelessness, see Kevin Corinth, “Ending Homelessness: More Housing or Fewer Shelters?” AEI Economic Policy Working Paper 2015-12, Nov. 4, 2015; Kevin Corinth and David Lucas, “On the Relationship Between Climate and Homelessness,” AEI Economics Working Paper 2017-05, July 20, 2017. Corinth, “Ending Homelessness,” pp. 18–19, finds that “emergency shelter is strongly and positively associated with overall homeless counts, but only weakly associated with unsheltered homeless counts in the short run, and not at all in the long run. Meanwhile, it is most strongly and positively associated with the nonchronically homeless and families, segments which are least likely to end up on the street. Thus, there is little evidence that the majority of the emergency shelter inventory prevents unsheltered homelessness.”
  6. See Peter Hellman, “Justice Freedman v. New York,” City Journal, Spring 1997; Susan Rosegrant, “Linda Gibbs and the Department of Homeless Services: Overhauling New York City’s Approach to Shelter,” C16-07-1873.0, Kennedy School of Government Case Program 2007; Main, Homelessness in New York City.
  7. New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Brieifng [sic] Paper of the Human Services Divisions, Oversight: An Examination of the Department of Homeless Services 90-Day Review,” Apr. 21, 2017; Main, Homelessness in New York City; New York City Commission on the Homeless, “The Way Home: A New Direction in Social Policy,” February 1992. The commission was named for its chairman, Andrew Cuomo, who is now the governor of New York.
  8. The Way Home,” p. 116.
  9. DHS still directly operates nine shelters: six for single adults, two for families with children, and one for adult families; see NYC, Mayor’s Office of Operations, “Shelter Repair Scorecard.”
  10. Office of the New York City Comptroller, “Checkbook NYC,” Human Services: Active Expense Contracts, FY 2017. These contracts cover several years, which is why these spending figures don’t align with other figures in this report about annual spending on homeless services.
  11. Data are as of December 2017. NYC, Mayor’s Office of Operations, “Shelter Repair Scorecard.” Other small shelter systems are operated by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of Youth & Community Development, and Human Resources Administration (for the HIV/AIDS population and domestic-violence survivors). NYC, Department of Homeless Services, “DHS Local Law 37 report for the Month of December 2017.”
  12. Office of the New York City Comptroller, “Comments on New York City’s Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 and Financial Plan for Fiscal Years 2017–2021,” Mar. 2, 2017, pp. 38, 57.
  13. Corinth, “Ending Homelessness,” p. 11.
  14. NYC, Office of the Mayor, “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City,” Feb. 28, 2017, p. ii; “Bill de Blasio’s Homelessness Crisis,” New York Daily News, Sept. 20, 2015; “What’s Really Driving the Homeless Crisis,” New York Post, Dec. 7, 2016; Coalition for the Homeless, “Coalition for the Homeless Statement on Homeless Crisis During the Holidays,” Dec. 21, 2017; Nicole Malliotakis for Mayor Campaign, “Helping Our People Excel: A Plan to Turn the Tide of New York City’s Homeless Crisis,” June 29, 2017; “Speaker Corey Johnson’s Remarks as Prepared for Delivery: Association for a Better New York (ABNY) Power Breakfast Keynote Address,” Jan. 30, 2018.
  15. New York City may be the only jurisdiction in the nation to make separate provision for adult families. See Christin Durham and Martha Johnson, “Innovations in NYC Health & Human Services Policy: Homelessness Prevention, Intake, and Shelter for Single Adults and Families,” Urban Institute, February 2014, p. 3.
  16. NYC, Mayor’s Office of Operations, “Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2017,” September 2017, pp. 208–9.
  17. Greg Smith, “NYC Neighborhoods Seeing Influx of Homeless People Face Quality-of-Life Issues,” New York Daily News, Feb. 18, 2018.
  18. New York City Independent Budget Office, “Albany Shifts the Burden: As the Cost for Sheltering the Homeless Rises, Federal & City Funds Are Increasingly Tapped,” October 2015.
  19. New York City Council, General Welfare and Health Committees, Oversight Hearing Part 1—Medical Health Services in the DHS Shelter System, “Testimony of Daniel Tietz, New York City Department of Social Services, Human Resources Administration,” Nov. 17, 2016; idem, Oversight Hearing Part 2—Behavioral Health Services in the DHS Shelter System, “Testimony of Daniel Tietz,”
    Nov. 21, 2016.
  20. Testimony of Daniel Tietz,” Nov. 17, 2016; “Testimony of Daniel Tietz,” Nov. 21, 2016; New York City Council, Finance Division, “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2018 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2017 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report for the Department of Homeless Services,” Mar. 27, 2017, p. 6.
  21. Office of the New York City Comptroller, “An Investigation into the Provision of Child Care Services in New York City Homeless Shelters,” October 2016.
  22. 18 NYCRR Chapter II Regulations of the Department of Social Services, § 900.9; NYC, “Reengineering Municipal Services 1994-2001 Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2001 Supplement,” p. 124; NYC, “The Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2005,” September 2005, p. 55; Linda Gibbs presentation, “Fighting Homelessness in the 21st Century.”
  23. NYC, Department of Homeless Services, “Single Adults: The Shelter System”; idem, “Families with Children: The Shelter System”; NYC Department of Social Services, “Testimony of Steven Banks, Commissioner of New York City Department of Social Services Before the New York City Council General Welfare Committee; Oversight: From Path to Permanency,” June 27, 2017, pp. 8–11.
  24. New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Committee Report, Oversight: Conditions and Operations in the Department of Homeless Services’ Family Shelters,” Feb. 27, 2014, p. 8.
  25. New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Briefing Paper and Report of the Governmental Affairs Division: Oversight: DHS’ Implementation of the Family Income Contribution Requirement and Client Conduct and Responsibility Procedure,” June 24, 2009; 18 NYCRR Chapter II, Regulations of the Department of Social Services, § 352.35(f).
  26. NYCRR, Chapter II, § 352.35(c)(3).
  27. Ibid., § 352.35(c)(4).
  28. Ibid., § 352.35(c).
  29. New York City Council, Finance Division, “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2018,” p. 9.
  30. New York City Council, Finance Division, “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2018,” p. 9; “Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017.
  31. Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017.
  32. Bill de Blasio for Mayor, “One New York, Rising Together,” 2013, p. 30: “No family should get caught in bureaucratic red tape while trying to access a shelter when they lack alternative housing options. Bill de Blasio will reform unfair and overly punitive eligibility review rules that deny shelter to too many needy families.”
  33. NYS, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, “Administrative Directive 15-ADM-06-T, Temporary Housing Assistance: Consolidation and Clarification of Policy,” Nov. 4, 2015, Section 2.V.D. 2; NYS, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, “Administrative Directive 16-ADM-11, Temporary Housing Assistance: Consolidation and Clarification of Policy,” Nov. 3, 2016, Section 2.V.D. 2;  New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Hearing Transcript, Oversight: PATH to Permanency,” New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, June 27, 2017, p. 155; Peter Nasaw and Thomas J. Main, “De Blasio Wrestles with Homelessness—Part Two: Setbacks and Responses,” Gotham Gazette, May 1, 2017.
  34. Nikita Stewart, “Harder for Homeless to Enter N.Y.C. Shelters, Report Finds,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Coalition for the Homeless, “State of the Homeless 2017 Rejecting Low Expectations: Housing is the Answer,”
    March 2017, p. 21.
  35. New York City Council, Finance Division, “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2018,” p. 9.
  36. Five of the 3,936 individuals counted were categorized as members of “Households with only children”—a cohort that includes “persons under age 18, including children in one-child households, adolescent parents and their children, adolescent siblings, or other household configurations composed only of children.” Otherwise, every other unsheltered homeless individual was a single adult over 18. See HUD 2017 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs, Homeless Populations and Subpopulations, “NY-600 New York City CoC, Point-in Time Date: 2/7/2017.”
  37. NYC, Department of Homeless Services, DHS Strategic Plan FY 2012–2014.
  38. New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Testimony of Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society on Proposed Eligibility Rules for Homeless Single Adults,” Nov. 9, 2011.
  39. Marc Santora, “City Eligibility Policy for Homeless People Seeking Shelter Was Enacted Illegally, Court Says,” New York Times, Feb. 15, 2013.
  40. NYC, Office of the Mayor, “Mayor de Blasio Announces Over 68,500 Students Enrolled in Pre-K for All,” Dec. 18, 2015; New York State Department of Health; “NY State of Health Enrollment Tops 4 Million,” Oct. 5, 2017; NYC, Office of the Mayor, “Mayor de Blasio Announces Record Pace Building and Protecting Affordable Housing,” July 13, 2017.
  41. Prevention programs include Homebase, legal services for tenants fighting eviction proceedings, and “one shot” emergency rental-assistance grants. Examples of rental subsidies include the Living in Communities (LINC), City Family Eviction Prevention Supplement/Family Exit Plan Supplement (CityFEPS), the Special Exit and Prevention Supplement (SEPS) voucher programs, and the reinstatement of NYCHA and Section 8 preferences for shelter clients. See “Turning the Tide,” chs. 2–3.
  42. Mariana Alexander, “A $3 Billion Problem: Homeless Services in New York City,”, May 24, 2018.
  43. Turning the Tide,” p. 19; “Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017.
  44. Turning the Tide,” pp. iii, 3, 86.
  45. NYC, Department of Homeless Services, “Review of Homeless Service Agencies and Programs,” Apr. 11, 2016; “Turning the Tide.”
  46. Graham Rayman et al., “Deranged Man Fatally Stabs Girlfriend and Her 2-Year-Old and Infant Daughters at Staten Island Motel, Another Toddler Clinging to Life as Police Hunt Maniac,” New York Daily News, Feb. 10, 2016; Ginger Adams Otis et al., “Cops Looking for Killer of 55-Year-Old Homeless Man Whose Throat Was Slit in Manhattan Shelter,” New York Daily News, Apr. 16, 2016; Office of the New York City Comptroller, “Audit Report on the Controls of the Department of Homeless Services over the Shelter Placement and the Provision of Services to Families with Children,” Dec. 18, 2015; NYC, Department of Investigation, “DOI Investigation of 25 City-Run Homeless Shelters for Families Finds Serious Deficiencies,” Mar. 12, 2015; New York Senate Independent Democratic Conference, “Horrors in Homeless Housing,” Jan. 2017; New York State Comptroller, “Oversight of Homeless Shelters,” Report 2015-S-23, Feb. 12, 2016; idem, “Oversight of Homeless Shelters (Follow-Up),” Report 2016-F-31, June 27, 2017.
  47. New York City Council, Committee Report “From PATH to Permanency,” pp. 9–10; idem, “Brieifng [sic] Paper of the Human Services Divisions”; New York City Council, Finance Division, “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2018”; “Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017.
  48. Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017.
  49. Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2017,” Sept. 2017, p. 209.
  50. Greg Smith, “Violent Assault Quietly Redefined at City Homeless Shelters Keeping ‘Critical Incident’ Statistics Down,” New York Daily News, Feb. 17, 2017; Stephen Eide and Max Eden, “Doctoring the Safety Stats,” City Journal, May 25, 2018.
  51. Turning the Tide,” p. iii; New York City Council, “Brieifng [sic] Paper of the Human Services Divisions,” Apr. 21, 2017, pp. 12–13.
  52. Yoav Gonen and Ruth Brown, “Homeless Hotels Are Costing Taxpayers a Fortune,” New York Post, Jan. 31, 2018.
  53. Turning the Tide,” p. iii and ch. 5.
  54. Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2017,” September 2017, p. 207.
  55. Ibid.
  56. See NYC, “Fiscal 1997 Mayor’s Management Report, Summary Volume,” September 1997, p. 42; “Fiscal 1998 Mayor’s Management Report, Summary Volume,” September 1998, pp. 81, 133, 137; “Fiscal 1999 Mayor’s Management Report, Summary Volume,” September 1999, p. 119; “Fiscal 2000 Mayor’s Management Report, Summary Volume,” September 2000, pp. 87, 93; “Reengineering Municipal Services 1994–2001: The City of New York Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2001 Supplement,” pp. 119–23.
  57. Rosegrant, “Linda Gibbs.”
  58. Ibid.; Durham and Johnson, “Innovations in NYC Health & Human Services Policy”; NYC, Office of the Mayor, “Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter: The Action Plan for New York City,” June 2004, pp. 25–28; NYC, Department of Homeless Services, “A Progress Report on Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter: The Action Plan for New York City,” Fall 2008, p. 13.
  59. Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2007,” September 2007, p. 39; “Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2008,” September 2008, p. 38; “Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2009,” September 2009, p. 37.
  60. NYC, “Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2013, September 2013,” p. 111; New York City Council, FY 2015 Department of Homeless Services Preliminary Budget Hearings, “Testimony of Christy Parque, Executive Director, Homeless Services United, Inc.,” Mar. 24, 2014; Durham and Johnson, Innovations in NYC Health & Human Services Policy; New York City Council Committee on General Welfare, “Committee Report: Hearing on the Fiscal 2015 Preliminary Budget & the Fiscal 2014 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report,” Mar, 24, 2014, p. 14.
  61. NYC, Department of Homeless Services, Stats & Reports, “DHS Performance Report Archive.”
  62. NYC, Department of Homeless Services, “Review of Homeless Service Agencies and Programs,” Apr. 11, 2016, p. 14; “Testimony of Steven Banks, Commissioner, New York City Department of Social Services Before the New York City Council General Welfare Committee, Oversight: Post-90 Day Review,” Apr. 20, 2017, p. 11; “Testimony of Steven Banks”, June 27, 2017, p. 5.
  63. The Bushwick Economic Development Corp., Housing Bridge, and We Always Care are shelter providers that lost their contracts under de Blasio. See New York City Council, Committee on General Welfare, “Hearing Transcript, Oversight: Post-90 Day Review,” Apr. 20, 2017, p. 60, and idem, “Hearing Transcript, Oversight: PATH to Permanency,” June 27, 2017, p. 78.
  64. Main, Homelessness in New York City, pp. 193–94.
  65. Testimony of Steven Banks,” June 27, 2017, p. 149.
  66. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD 2017 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs, Homeless Populations and Subpopulations, “NY-600 New York City CoC, Point-in Time Date: 2/7/2017”; “Final Rule: Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Defining ‘Chronically Homeless’,” Federal Register Vol. 80, no. 233, Dec. 4, 2015, p. 75792.
  67. Mayor’s Management Report Fiscal 2017,” p. 210.


Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.