Nassau-Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless

Raising awareness about the number of Long Islanders who are homeless or at risk, to collect and distribute necessary items to those in need and to encourage and promote community involvement and volunteerism.

The Homeless on Long Island

The most common reason that people are homeless on long Island is the high cost of living and a lack of affordable housing. It is anticipated that this crisis will continue to grow in the near future.

This is primarily due to the definition of homelessness. The most narrow definition only includes those who are living in cars or abandoned buildings, literally on the street or in homeless shelters. During a count conducted in 2007, enumerators counted over 2,500 Long Islanders who were in one of those situations. If we were to include those who are doubled or tripled up, sleeping on relatives' sofas, or facing imminent eviction, those numbers would easily be four times higher.

In 2007, a Department of Housing and Urban Development project reported that there were nearly 4,000 homeless people on Long Island. Of that 4,000, there were 1,215 homeless in Nassau, 91 of them outside.

Long Island Handles Homelessness

(Long Island, N.Y.) Both long and short-term effects of the national recession have led to bigger problems for those aiming to combat homelessness on Long Island. Rising foreclosure rates correspond with an increase in the amount of Long Islanders relying on housing assistance. Between federal aid and local initiatives, Long Island helpers are making efforts to shelter the needy in their communities.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development was equipped with a $216 million budget to spend on roughly seven-hundred nationwide programs for the homeless. About fifteen million dollars was given to projects in New York State. Long Island organizations received an estimated $1.2 million in federal housing aid.

Over three-quarters-of-a-million dollars was spent on Catholic Charities, which is an organization based in Freeport that houses veterans and their families. A Huntington organization called the Family Service League received over a quarter-of-a-million dollars to expand their assistance to singles. The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, an organization based in Garden City, received almost $80K in federal aid to create an online database.

The database is designed to provide nonprofits with information they can use to keep track of their homeless clients and help target their specific needs. Some of the information included will determine the number of users served and where they came from. All of the information will function to help develop better programs and to apply for more grants.

Long Island statistics from November of 2009 showed a thirty percent increase in homelessness and a forty percent increase in the amount of Suffolk County residents dependent on food stamps. During this time, all eighteen of Suffolk County's homeless shelters were filled to capacity. Local motels sheltered the excess of clients, some who wrote of their desperation in letters to President Obama.

Statistics from 2004 show that Suffolk County's Department of Social Services estimated there were 435 homeless families and 222 homeless singles living in the county. The statistics from the previous year show 524 families and 144 singles. These statistics only reflect the homeless who applied for assistance and met the official criteria for aid.

Helpers believe that many more homeless live on Long Island but simply don't come to take the handouts. Workers at a nonprofit organization based in Riverhead estimate that sometimes thirty people a day visit the soup kitchen at a nearby assistance location. Some helpers estimate that in previous years, at least one new homeless person benefited from their programs each day.

It's true that substance abusers and the mentally ill comprise the largest sector of Long Island's homeless, but many helpers question whether drug use and the progression of illnesses came before or after the loss of shelter. Currently, the homeless are eligible to receive enough money for food and sustenance, but not enough for the cheapest forms of long-term housing on Long Island. Consider the difficulties of maintaining a job with the added stresses of being on the streets.

Veterans, persons with HIV/AIDS, and victims of domestic abuse also comprise Long Island's homeless. It's clear that the differences among these groups of people should mean that they are targeted differently and afforded different measures of assistance. Perhaps more efforts and resources should be focused on homeless minorities, evaluating the priority given to individuals, and finding jobs and permanent housing for only those with the ability to maintain them.

Information Provided by: Jessica Cappelli

This article is an opinion piece which reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the site,, itself.


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