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Report: Number of homeless sleeping in NYC shelters sets record in 2013

Prince, who is homeless, sits on a

Prince, who is homeless, sits on a subway grate to keep warm on a frigid day on Jan. 7, 2014 in New York. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The number of people sleeping in homeless shelters each night last year jumped 7 percent, up to 53,615 -- a record for the city, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

At the same time, the number of children in shelters hit a new high of 22,712, an increase of 8 percent, according to the coalition's State of the Homeless Report, released Wednesday.

The coalition attributes the rise to a widening gap between income and rent costs, as well as policies implemented by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, such as expanding the use of for-profit shelter operators.

The report cites data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which says that. from 2002 to 2011, the city lost 39 percent -- nearly 400,000 -- of affordable apartments for households earning less than "twice the poverty line," defined as $39,580 for a family of three.

Between 2007 and 2011, renter incomes fell by 6.8 percent, while median apartment rents rose by 8.5 percent.

Patrick Markee, the coalition's deputy executive director for policy, said Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign promises, as well as discussions with the mayor's office, indicate the new administration will reverse many of Bloomberg's policies.

De Blasio has reinstated the Code Blue policy that ensures homeless families have access to shelter on the coldest nights of the year, and last month he announced a plan to reform the city's two largest shelters.

"In 10 short weeks, the de Blasio administration has already taken important steps to protect families from homelessness," Markee said.

In the report, the coalition offers specific solutions for the city to implement, such as long-term housing subsidies, focusing on homelessness prevention and converting cluster-site shelters -- apartments that are being used as temporary shelters -- back into permanent housing.

"We know these are things they are working on," Markee said. "But the details matter and we're anxiously awaiting to see what happens."

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