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City Spending on Homeless Shelters to Soar to $800 Million

By Jill Colvin | March 7, 2013 3:01pm | Updated on March 7, 2013 3:56pm

NEW YORK CITY — The city will spend more than $800 million this year on homeless shelters — an increase of 25 percent over the past five years, according to a new report.

The massive jump comes as the homeless population in the city has mushroomed, according to a new analysis by the city's Independent Budget Office.

The budget watchdog said the city would shell out more than half a billion dollars on shelters for families and more than $319 million on shelters for single adults through the end of the fiscal year, which ends July 1.

That's about $200 million more than it spent in 2008, according to the IBO.

“It’s a pretty big jump for both families and single adults,” said IBO analyst Elizabeth Brown, who prepared the report.

The projected spending covers all costs associated with the shelters, including intake, administration and the expense of opening new shelter spaces.

It was not clear how much of the money would be spent on new shelters and the DHS refused to provide a list of potential new facilities, citing "client confidentiality."

Brown blamed the spike partially on the end of Advantage rental subsidies that helped people move out of the shelter system.

Since the subsidies expired, the city's homeless population has soared, forcing the Department of Homeless Services to open more than two dozen new shelters across the city over the past two years, a move that drew frequent community opposition.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond said the sum represented “a very generous and effective investment in the people that are in the system to help them improve their lives."

“It’s a far more generous investment than any city in the country makes and it represents the city's efforts to make sure everyone who has no alternative has a safe and secure place to live," he added.

In 2011, Diamond predicted that the cuts would force the city to build up to 70 new shelters thorough the five boroughs, which he estimated would cost $80 million. He would not say how many additional new shelter spaces he expected to open this year.

On March 5, 48,577 people slept in the city's homeless shelters, including 10,129 families with more than 10,000 children, according to DHS stats.

The average number of people in emergency city shelters surpassed 50,000 for the first time in January — a 61 percent increase since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, the Coalition for the Homeless noted in a report this week.

Asked about the report, Bloomberg dismissed the group as "not a reputable organization” and said that, overall, conditions at city shelters have improved dramatically and the number of intakes is on its way down.

“The good news is fewer people are coming in," he said this week.