Approximately 40% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep every night, but those homeless individuals in the New York City area are getting even less than the average American citizen.
New York City hit a new record of 59,373 people in shelters overseen by the Department of Homeless Services just last week.
Under a law passed in 1999 that was intended to give homeless families some measure of dignity and freedom, parents and children seeking shelter are not allowed to sleep at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) center.
Instead, those still in the process of applying after 10 p.m. will receive leave to stay at a temporary shelter for the night, and then be returned to the PATH center in the morning to complete their applications.
However, that measure has backfired. Families now have to pack up, travel, sleep for a few hours at most, and then repeat the whole process the next day.
But with 12,913 families in homeless shelters — another new record — and the city’s reluctance to grant “overnights” twice in a row, New York has created a broken system that deprives many of sleep and even more of shelter.
Some transportation buses don’t leave the PATH center until 4 a.m. and then return just a few hours later to transport families back to the PATH center before a new wave of families rushes to complete applications.
“What’s going on now is a direct result of capacity,” said Kathryn Kliff, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “This is not the norm. This isn’t how overnights go.”
Kliff and her team are working in their organization to push New York City to improve its services for the homeless population.
A lack of sleep isn’t the only thing plaguing these people, either. One Harlem man was recently attacked by homeless shelter staff, which raises additional concerns of violence for homeless individuals and families.
“The case manager came down and attacked me,” said Alexis Fleming, the man who was allegedly attacked by three staff members.
Fleming and his wife have been at the The Dawn shelter in Harlem for almost two years, and there was recently a change in management.
The couple reported becoming concerned after the only notification of new management was a flyer that informed them as of midnight on August 31 there would be new management coming in.
Fleming reports that the manager jumped on him and was aided by two other men. He was admitted to the hospital with injuries.
Police have confirmed that Efrain Echevarria and Eric Jimenez were both arrested and charged with assault.
Fleming, like countless others, now fears for his family’s safety in addition to their shelter security and sleep schedule.
“We’re moving as quickly as we can,” said Steven Banks, commissioner of the Department of Social Services overseeing homeless services