NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Big Apple has hit a grim milestone when it comes to the homeless crisis.

A new report from homeless advocates says COVID-19 has helped propel the shelter population to record numbers, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported Wednesday.

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The advocates call the numbers “astronomical.” They say for the first time the number of single adults sleeping in city Department of Homeless Services shelters reached more than 20,000. That includes an all-time record of 15,369 single men — and a near record of 4,841 single women — in October, the latest statistics available.

All of this is according to the campaign 4 NY/NY Housing — a coalition of advocacy groups.

“This dire homelessness crisis among single adults has been exacerbated by COVID-19, which has already forced more individuals into homelessness and will likely worsen in the coming months,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless.

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Advocates point out the high numbers do not include those sleeping on the streets or in private shelters. They say not only is COVID to blame, but also multiple economic and policy failings, including a lack of supportive housing, which is affordable housing with support services.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said even during the pandemic massive outreach has continued to get the homeless off the streets and into shelters and help.

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“They need mental health services. They need substance misuse services. Obviously, everyone ultimately needs affordable housing or supportive housing,” de Blasio said.


The campaign is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fulfill a commitment he made in 2016 to build 20,000 supportive housing units across the state. To date, 6,000 have been funded.

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Advocates say it may seem like the worst time — during a pandemic — to renew calls for long-term funding, but not acting will be worse.

“Homelessness is expensive. Without stable housing, very vulnerable people cycle in and out of shelters, prisons, jails, and state psychiatric centers. Study after study shows that supportive housing actually saves the state money,” Supporting Housing Network of New York executive director Laura Mascuch said.

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A spokesman with the State Division of the Budget said the governor’s administration is continuing to fund a $20 billion homelessness and housing plan. He said it has already exceeded its goal of 6,000 homes — and is on its way to achieving the goal of 20,000 supportive homes over 15 years.