Broadly speaking, homelessness is the condition of people without a permanent dwelling, such as a house or apartment. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure, and adequate housing. The legal definition of homeless varies from country to country, and often among different jurisdictions in the same country or region.
The term homeless may include people whose primary night-time residence is in a homeless shelter, a domestic violence shelter, long-term residence in a motel, a vehicle, squatting, cardboard boxes, a tent or tent city, tarpaulins, shanty town structures made of discarded building materials, or other ad hoc housing situations.
In New York City homelessness is a major problem with approximately 62,435 so labeled by the city administration in February 2017. Among these 15,689 were homeless families with 23,764 homeless children that sleep each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families comprise just over three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.
Our Goal Here
This is an enormously sensitive subject with capacity, competence, family, friendship, health / mental health, safety, and other factors involved. Here on this page we provide consensus information about possible solutions to the problem, with a special filter for privacy.
Visit this page's Discussion page to enter into a conversation about the ethical issues relating to this topic. (To view the Discussion click here or the word Discussion on the left of the above line.)
Resources for the homeless
- City Resources
- See this April 16, 2017 Google search for a start.
- Local Resources - Resources provided by Jackson Heights organizations and residents.
What Should I Do If...
It is not easy seeing someone trying to survive on the streets of the city, and our reactions can range from pity, to anger, to choosing not to see the person at all. As hard as it is to witness the suffering of others, we encourage all New Yorkers to exercise empathy – to imagine what it’s like to have no home and no support network, to be cold or hungry or sick, to have hundreds of people walk by you each day and pretend you don’t exist.
The question of how to help a homeless person on the streets is not always an easy one, and while some general answers are outlined below, the best place to start is by remembering the humanity of each man or woman you see in a public place. Treat each and every person with dignity – but also follow your own instincts. And remember that small acts of kindness can have tremendously positive repercussions in the lives of others.
I want to help a homeless person I pass on the streets every day, or who is sleeping in front of my home?
Unless you feel that the situation is unsafe, ask the person if he or she needs assistance and has visited the Coalition or any other organization that helps homeless people. You can print out and offer the person one of the Coalition for the Holeless's downloadable Crisis Cards and Resource list, order a box of our pocket-sized resource guides (Z-cards) by emailing us, or simply use our Online Resource Guide to find the closest service.
If you are not comfortable engaging the person, then call 311 to let the City know that there is a homeless person who appears to need services, and they will send an outreach team. You should be able to let them know where the person is, what he or she is wearing, what condition he or she seems to be in, and whether it is an emergency. You can request that someone from the City get back to you to let you know what happened.
Homeless needing help
- Situation 2017-01
This is a male of approximately 50+ years of age who can regularly be seen on 37th Avenue...
- Situation 2017-02
- Coalition For The Homeless, The Coalition provides up-to-date information on New York City’s homeless population.