By Bob Tannenhauser
When Community Board 7 meets April 4, the full board will continue discussion of the safe haven for the homeless that the city plans to open on West 83rd Street in April. As the Rag reported earlier, at its March meeting the board deferred voting on a resolution in support of the safe haven, where the city plans to house 108 men and women (the board’s vote is advisory but will put the neighborhood group on the record as either supporting or opposing the city’s plans).
A protest rally opposing the shelter was held on March 23, and the Rag’s stories on the issue have received nearly 200 comments – many for, many against – from readers. Among the recurring themes from those who oppose the project is the perception that the Upper West Side already has more than its share of city shelters providing for the homeless. WSR researched shelter statistics, which we present here and leave it to readers to decide whether the neighborhood is overburdened, underburdened, or just doing its fair share in helping the homeless.
One caveat: the numbers are fluid. They represent data available for a fixed point in time, based on information reported by various city agencies that oversee facilities and programs for the homeless. The numbers collected on those fixed dates may not match the precise number of people at each shelter at that time, due to reporting delays, or today and therefore may be presented herein as approximate numbers.
City Limits , which tracks data through Freedom of Information Act requests, reported that on November 22, 2022, based on data it received, there were 78,529 individuals in New York City homeless shelters. The vast majority – 69,667 (approximately 89%) – were in shelters administered by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), which issues a daily census of its facilities. On March 27, that census recorded 72,449 individuals living in DHS shelters (almost 2,800 more than the number reported by City Limits for last November 22). Of those in DHS shelters on March 27, approximately 1,563 single adults were in safe haven facilities, similar to the facility proposed for West 83rd Street. Safe Havens are a form of shelter designed for homeless people living on the streets and subways with minimal entry requirements and enhanced services.
The daily DHS census doesn’t give a geographic breakdown of where individuals are sheltered. But the city’s Open Data site does. Here are its most recent numbers showing by borough how many people were living in DHS shelter facilities on February 28, 2023.
Borough Individuals Sheltered Number of DHS Shelters
Bronx 18,166 118
Brooklyn 20,281 128
Manhattan 14,025 86
Queens 17,718 87
Staten Island 670 3
And here, according to Open Data, is a breakdown by community district of the number of individuals in DHS-administered shelters on February 28:
Community District Individuals Sheltered Number of Buildings
CD 1 Financial District 438 1
CD 2 Bowery 364 1
CD 3 Lower Eastside 935 10
CD 4 Hell’s Kitchen 2,136 8
CD 5 Midtown East 3,375 11
CD 6 Murray Hill 1,227 4
CD 7 Upper West Side 1,352 7
CD 8 Upper East Side 41 1
CD 9 Hamilton/Morningside Hgts 739 5
CD 10 Central Harlem 1,376 19
CD 11 East Harlem 1,534 15
CD 12 Inwood/Washington Hgts 508 4
We compared the NYC Planning Community District Profiles count of each Manhattan community district’s population based upon a 2021 survey with the number of individuals sheltered in each district. The following chart shows the population of each Manhattan district and the percentage of that population living in city shelters.
Community District Population Percent of Population Sheltered**
CD 1 72,225 0.61
CD 2 87,858 0.41
CD 3 157,101 0.60
CD 4 117,930 1.81
CD 5 49,302 6.85
CD 6 149,052 0.82
CD 7 221,646 0.61
CD 8 217,279 0.02
CD 9 115,788 0.64
CD 10 133,831 1.03
CD 11 126,388 1.21
CD 12 208,994 0.24
** Caveat the individuals sheltered number is as of 2/28/23 but the population is based on the 2021 survey, a shift in population based upon the current census would affect the percentages.
The Safe Haven scheduled to open on West 83rd Street is designed to accommodate 108 individuals that are currently unsheltered. One argument put forth against the proposed safe haven is that it allegedly will bring in homeless people from outside the Upper West Side. We couldn’t find a breakdown by neighborhood of the unsheltered homeless, but according to a survey conducted for DHS by HOPE NYC, there were 3,439 unsheltered individuals in NYC as of January 25, 2022. That number includes 2,142 individuals living in the subways. The other 1,297 individuals were living on the street, of which 163 were in the Bronx, 228 in Brooklyn, 283 in Queens, 571 in Manhattan, and 52 in Staten Island.