Research | Homelessness and Vacancy

Please post your research progress here.


47 thoughts on “Research | Homelessness and Vacancy

    • Bonnie,

      This is great stuff! Will continue reading (yay!) … no doubt we want to speak with Amelia and the good folks at “we are the public space.” If you make a contact we should invite to the panel on the 8th march.

      Nice work!


      • This is a project I coordinated for my students from the Interior Design Program (School of Constructed Environments)! Rehabilitation and re-programing of vacant spaces in Bushwick. Amelia did a great job and got in love with Bushwick!

    • Good back-grounder for our work. This, and the research that Gabriela has done, give us a solid understanding of the history and the challenges of our work today.

    • OK … I like it – but I must confess my eyes are not what they used to be … will wait for the blow-up version so I can really get a good look!

    • Thanks for uploading the diagram. It looks great! One note, don’t you think we must elaborate our own definition instead of the quotes? It would be great to have those quotes in the text next to the diagram, but I think it is better to provide our own view for the diagram. This also applies for the methodology to map vacant spaces. I think is great to address the different approaches, but what would be our approach? …. In two weeks will be mapping and classifying vacant spaces in Bushwick.

    • Yes .. Given the Picture the Homeless and RTTC research it’s clear that not only does much vacant (and varied) space exist in this city, but that it must be contested, fought for in order to insure that “it doesn’t go to waste” or to feed greed!

    • Again, very good back-grounder to recent PTH / RTTC work around the issue of vacant apartments, empty condos etc., raising (among others) the potential of eminent domain narrowly tailored to meet the needs of the majority.

    • The piece reflects one aspect of the corporate view of the issue and articulates it accordingly. This is not to say that there is nor much to glean here … the idea of :land banks” for example should be explored … the key is (as usual) the class orientation. Common sense dictates, along with elemental moral considerations, that homeless families ought to be high on the list, long with those at risk of homelessness, to consideration when it comes to planning for use of vacant properties. As for the maps: yes, we need consider mapping the strategies and key players that we devise …

    • Interesting! Seems to me the notion of land bank and the setting up of such might be a means of realizing our homesteading project … needs further study, particularly with some legal minds versed in the law … let’s look at his very closely – anyone ever suggested such here in NYC?


  1. OK Bonnie … think you’ve really hit upon something here. This is current stuff! We have to incorporate this knowledge into our research, map it so that the intent and means of these land bank entities can be understood … also, we might want to arrange an interview (once we have really gotten a good hold on what these are) with some of the authors – some of whom may be locatable here in the city.

    Great work Bonnie … this could really be something useful indeed!


  2. My brief phone conversation with DHS this afternoon was interesting in that even though I was unable to get specific answers or data due to confidentiality reasons, it was helpful to a degree. Here are some of the brief questions that I asked regarding shelters: (This transcript does not accurately account for how the conversation took place) These questions were also after we had conversed over the subject of my interest, why I wanted the info, my affiliations and legitimacy and how I intended to use the document. The latter of which I confirmed was for research only.

    Q- Can you please provide me with a list of shelters in the NYC area?
    A- No, this info is not released to the public
    Q- Can you describe how shelters are funded?
    A- I’m sorry that is something that would have to involve our legal department etc.
    Q- How do you determine the amount to allocate to individual shelters?
    A- (Similar answer as top question)

    My reason for asking these questions is because, it has been recorded that an amount of approx. $3500 is being paid by DHS & other gov’t agencies per head per month for individuals in the shelter system. If studio apt in Brooklyn or Queens are going for $1200 – $1800 per month with is about half the cost of what (you’re) spending, why is this amount being poured into the shelter system when such an amount could be put towards getting the homeless and those at risk of homelessness into better sustaining conditions?

    It was after this last question that she opened up a bit and acknowledged the obvious discrepancy. Talked a bit more on this but not saying anything too specific or penalizing, however, she acknowledged there was indeed a problem with homelessness, she said it was a crisis that needed to be addressed and that that discrepancy was obviously a problem, yet she wasn’t at liberty to share or discuss the matter. She said however that she would put me in contact with someone else.

    She was kind enough to ask me of my time frame for needing this info- which seems hopeful.

    All in all, I’m eager to hear back from her or her suggested contact.

    • She did not respond to my request to meet.
    • I did not mention FOIL request {Freedom of Information Act Request} because of the lead time involved- weeks sometimes months and I was concerned she’d insist on that avenue.

  3. An example of a FOIL request courtesy Sam of PTH :

    33 Beaver Street
    New York NY 10004

    Legal Department, DHS

    Dear Iris Allen,

    The Housing Committee at Picture the Homeless is making a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain information about the amount of money paid each year to every DHS-contracted shelter (single, family, and “adult family”).

    Please give a call or an email to __________ as soon as possible to let us know how long the process might be, and anything further that we must do.

    Many thanks,

    (Iris was the contact back in 2004, may still be contact)

  4. Interesting article on the reaction from residents in wealthy manhattan to Bloomberg’s response on the homeless crisis and the surge of shelters throughout the city.

    “We have made our shelter system so much better that, unfortunately, when people are in it — or fortunately, depending on what your objective is — it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before,” Bloomberg told reporters in August.

    • The city’s Department of Homeless Services initially agreed to speak with The Associated Press for this story and allow a reporter to interview people inside the shelter. But after learning that the AP had interviewed homeless residents that weren’t hand-picked by the city, the department abruptly canceled an interview with the commissioner and refused to answer any questions.

      • Thanks Shirley, let’s discuss how are you going to include this information in the gazette.

        I think you’ll be collecting soon the opinions of residents in Brooklyn regarding the urban homesteading program (opinion survey). Will be interesting to see the different points of view according to district.

  5. I went out exploring and found an organization in my neighborhood (Bushwick) called The Doe Fund.
    It’s program for homeless and previously incarcerated men that gives counseling, housing, meals, and minimum-wage work for 12 months which is supposed to rehabilitate them and give them skills to enter or re-enter the workforce. This organization owns their own companies, like pest control and green initiative enterprises, and that’s how they are able to give the men work and wages while they are in the rehabilitation program.

    I’m particularly interested in The Doe Fund for a number of reasons: Their founders seem interesting, they have a location in Bushwick, their Director of Operations is Dennis Piervicenti (the former Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Department of Homeless Services), and their Board of Directors includes the Managing Director of Barclays and other high-profile people.

    I would really love to interview their founders (who are a married couple, their bio it’s rather interesting) but I will shoot for the program director at the Bushwick location, Thomas Perry. Here’s a quote from their website:

    “To solve homelessness for a night, you need shelter. To solve it for good, you need work. Since Ready, Willing & Able launched in 1990, it has used paid transitional work and a holistic, individualized service package to catapult individuals into the workforce and out of cycles of homelessness, crime, and addiction.”

  6. I also have an interview set up with Warren Cohn. He is a lobbyist currently, and his father (Steve Cohn) was the democratic district leader in Williamsburg for 27 years (he actually stepped down so that Warren could run in 2010, but he lost). So he has a lot of knowledge from the perspectives of both a politician and a lobbyist. He also was in college in New Orleans during Katrina and worked throughout his time there gutting houses and rebuilding the community. He also volunteered in Haiti after the earthquake three years ago. When he returned to New York he worked for Congressman Ed Towns, which is when I met him.

    I’m interested in getting his perspective on Urban Homesteading and other possibilities for the homeless population from many different lenses. I am still working on a list of questions and will post them soon.

    • I pinned as many homeless shelters as I could find (that are currently opened and operating) through cross-searches on the internet, and gave them to Charlie to add to the layered maps he is generating.

  7. Sam with Picture the Homeless was kind enough to share this working map showing different shelter profiles:

    Initial re-presentation of shelter profiles

    According to map, It appears there are the following in the 5 boroughs (count excludes NJ)
    51 Shelters for Families
    43 Shelters for singles – men, women, or both
    36 Welfare hotels
    53 Soup kitchen

    This does not include include shelter apartments, which my contact at DHS alluded to.

    • Hi Shirley, yes the map is quite useful. This is great for the research! Did you share this information with Thomas and Charles? They were going to get together on Monday to work on the mapping.


    This is an account/interviews with some homeless individuals right before Sandy hit, notably those who felt like the storm was less threatening than being in a shelter.
    While Michael said he has access to a homeless shelter in Harlem, he’s avoiding it. “Those people, they have AIDS, they’re always drinking, so I don’t want to stay inside today,” he said. Michael said he sometimes works as a handyman, and lived in an apartment in Brooklyn until he fell behind on rent. He said he plans to ride out the storm walking the streets of the Upper West Side. He’s unconcerned with the weather, knowing only that “I’ll be better off outside than in there.”

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