There are enough abandoned apartments and vacant lots in Manhattan alone to house all the homeless people in the city, says an organization of homeless and formerly homeless people.
“Homeless People Count: Vacant Properties in Manhattan,” a survey conducted by Picture the Homeless last year, found 1,723 abandoned buildings—containing 11,170 apartments—and 505 vacant lots in Manhattan. If those apartments were renovated and housing were built on the vacant lots, the group says, it would provide 24,000 units—which could become homes for the more than 9,000 families and 7,000 single adults living in city shelters last April, the 4,000 people the city says are living on the street, and another 4,000 street homeless who were likely missed in the city’s count.
“It’s really a phenomenal thing,” says Robert Robinson of Picture the Homeless.
Supported by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the group did the survey on two weekends last summer and fall. More than 150 volunteers walked and bicycled around Manhattan looking for obviously abandoned property—buildings with cinderblocked windows, no electricity, or ancient newspapers lying on the floor, and vacant lots strewn with garbage. “We couldn’t get any help from the city,” says Robinson. “We walked around and counted property from end to end.” They then cross-checked their results against various city property records.