The Price of Profit in NYC is a 136% Jump in Homeless Deaths

NYC homelessness

New York is a city well-known for setting social and economic trends. Its imprint on the fashion industry is undeniable. Its sway over social media is not to be ignored.

New York currently holds the number one spot for trend-setting cities on Twitter. One could argue that if you’d like a taste of life in the United States, taking a bite out of the Big Apple is all you’d have to do. Described by Britannica as an “economic juggernaut,” this teeming metropolis is the blueprint for setting city goals in terms of financial stability, influence, and infrastructure. Tourism here is among the most elite destinations on Earth. 

In 2019, the Time Out global survey voted New York the best city in the world. But behind the bright lights and the looming sight of Lady Liberty sits a dark and agonizing truth – homelessness.

The Truth About Homelessness in New York City

If New York is to be this host city harboring the future of America, we might want to look past the gleaming neon billboards of Times Square and the towering skyscrapers dotting the skyline and dig a little deeper into this city’s soul. It doesn’t take long to see the unsettling trend of homelessness quietly stirring in the city that never sleeps.

Homelessness for single adults in New York City climbed to an all-time high in 2021, according to data released by The Coalition for the Homeless.

Exactly how many people are homeless in New York City currently? The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates that number to be upwards of 91,271 individuals on any given day. School data showed approximately 148,485 homeless public-school children during the 2018 through 2019 school year. And both of these numbers are an undercount as PIT officials admit to their inability to comb over every possible street corner or navigate the sewer systems, which are also notorious for harboring whole homeless communities.

You might wonder what’s causing all this homelessness in New York City and across the nation, for that matter. The Coalition for the Homeless reports that even post-pandemic, amid multiple other crises such as the opioid epidemic, perpetual war, and climate change, the number one cause of homelessness in New York City and elsewhere is still overwhelmingly the lack of affordable housing.

With that knowledge readily available, the city still manages to sleep on the facts at the expense of its residents, no doubt. In response to the statewide emergency of homelessness, rents are rising instead of falling. They’ve gone up 33%, according to the New York Times.

The market isn’t any better for homebuyers either. With New York often taking the top spot for most unaffordable places to live, Patch reports that housing is statistically unaffordable in all five boroughs of the Big Apple.

Squeezed out of both rental and ownership markets, New Yorkers are being turned over to the streets and shelter systems at record numbers.

But it gets worse.

While grappling with homelessness sounds like an expensive endeavor, investigative research shows that plenty of private corporations are getting rich, running sketchy, poorly functioning shelters in crime-ridden regions of the city. In some notorious incidents, people have managed to make millions running violent, infested, and dilapidated facilities and shamelessly calling them shelters for the homeless community.

Their fortune comes at a nearly unfathomable price: the price of human lives.

Homeless Death Rates in New York City Have Increased by a Jaw-Dropping 136%. Here’s a Look at What That Means for Housing Advocates.

The Guardian just released an in-depth investigation that shows homeless deaths have gone up 77% nationwide in just the past five years.

According to the numbers, of the 20 cities surveyed, NYC has seen the biggest jump, with homeless deaths skyrocketing by 136% between 2016 and 2020. And these are not minuscule statistics by any means. We’re not talking about just a few people here.

According to this same investigative piece, what we’re looking at is somewhere between 13,000 and 40,000 homeless deaths every year. Notedly, New York also takes the top spot for the highest number of COVID-related homeless deaths. These account for 121 unfortunate fatalities.

It’s easy to look at these numbers as flat 2-dimensional statistics written in a digitized font. But these numbers represent the faces of real humans whose lives are often cut decades short by homelessness.

And if New York is to be the looking glass upon which we gaze to see an American reflection, then these numbers reflect something even more disturbing. They reflect a callus and uncaring future fueled by elitism and corporate greed.

Is that the city/country/world we want to live in?

How Homeless People Die in New York City

It’s important to point out that deaths amongst homeless individuals tend to be statistically more gruesome and premature. Homeless people in New York City die in traffic, sideswiped by vehicles careening over sidewalks. They die in violence due to stalkings, shootings, thrill-killings, and rapes. When treatable diseases are diagnosed too late, they die in agony in hospital beds. They die approximately three decades earlier than housed people die. But worst of all, they die uncounted.

As per The Guardian, “the federal government makes no effort to count deaths nationally of people deemed homeless.”

That says everything an advocate needs to know.

Talk to Your Local Legislators about Making Housing a Human Right

The federal government acts only per the general public’s desires. Talk to your legislators today about the astronomical number of people dying on the streets and in the shelter system while private corporate figureheads profit from this crisis. Let them know you have noticed a need for more data and long-term, non-punitive solutions.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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Invisible People is the only nonprofit newsroom dedicated exclusively to the issue of homelessness and related topics. We bring you daily original news on the growing homeless crisis, affordable housing, and the criminalization of homelessness. Join us to explore solutions and stay informed on this urgent issue with our unique coverage.

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