Watch CBS News

Exhibit Shines Light On Difficult Journey Through NYC Shelter System For Those Experiencing Homelessness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearly one in 100 people in New York City is currently experiencing homelessness.

Many of us have no idea what it's like trying to navigate the shelter system in the search for permanent housing.

CBS2's Jessica Moore spoke to Shamaya Morris, a woman who has been through it all and has advice on how to improve what she calls a failing system.

"It's been me plenty of times and I can say you do not want it to be you," Morris said.

She knows the desperate cycle of homelessness in New York City all too well.

"I feel so heartbroken because you're in a situation where you need the services, you know the workers are overworked, you know how hard and difficult it's gonna be... It's your only option," she said.

Morris's most recent bout with homelessness came after Hurricane Ida destroyed her apartment, leaving her and her four kids without a house.

"Now we're literally at my uncle's house sleeping on couches and a cot in his living room. I'd rather be there than go back through the shelter," Morris said.

An exhibit called "The Way Home" outside Brooklyn Borough Hall is designed to educate the public on the taxing journey to find housing. (Credit: CBS2)

Together, Morris and Moore walked through an exhibit called "The Way Home" outside Brooklyn Borough Hall. It's designed to educate the public on the taxing journey to find housing.

"As you can see, it looks like a Chutes and Ladders game. This is what going through the shelter is like. You know, there are so many factors that would keep you out of your house, out of your home, once you've been found eligible. They don't get their payment in time to the landlord. There's something that came up at the end," Morris said.

The Department of Homeless Services says people can expect to spend 90 days to a year in a shelter while they apply for affordable housing, but city data shows the average person spends 520 days there, trying to find a home.

"It's a constant cycle of being on edge because you never know what to expect," Morris said.

"All while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy for these little kids?" Moore said.

"Normalcy is out the window. There's no such thing as normal anymore," Morris said.

The city spends nearly $3 billion a year on homeless services, almost $2 billion of which is allocated to shelters.

"We could use the same amount of money to keep people housed. We could use it to prevent evictions from happening by supporting Right to Counsel, which provides free attorneys to New Yorkers who are at risk of eviction. We could use it to provide rental assistance to get people into homes. We really think this is solvable," said Chloe Sarnoff, with the Robin Hood Foundation.

Incoming mayor Eric Adams has promised to address the city's homeless crisis, including turning empty hotels into permanent affordable housing.

The prescription home exhibit is back this weekend at Astor Place Plaza. It's free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.