NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Sometimes life in a homeless shelter is more than a 14-year-old can handle.
Francheska Luciano, who is among a growing number of homeless children in the city, said living in a shelter was “like living in hell.”
“I’m tired of this,” she said Friday while sitting on a curb outside a shelter intake center in the Bronx with her mother and little sisters. “It’s a nightmare every day.”
The number of children in the city’s shelters hit 19,000 last week, the most recent city data available show.
“Not since the grim days of the Great Depression has New York City had 20,000 children sleeping homeless each night,” said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless.
Francheska’s family was waiting outside a Department of Homeless Services intake center surrounded by suitcases containing all their belongings.
“It’s really hard on my sisters; they’re young, they have no childhood, they don’t sleep well. It’s not fair to them,” Francheska said of Shanely, 7, Yadeiliz, 4, and Mileishka, 2.
The family has been staying at New Hope Shelter in the Bronx since January after being evicted from an apartment they paid for with a city rental subsidy called Advantage. The city axed the program, citing funding cuts.
The Lucianos went to the center to get transferred to a shelter in Brooklyn, closer to the younger kids’ daycare and in a safer neighborhood.
“The area where we are staying now is really bad. I can’t go outside because it’s so dangerous,” Francheska said.
Her mom, Wanda Luciano, 32, came to New York from Puerto Rico in 2006. Health issues and surgeries have kept her from finding a full-time job, she said.
If the family is placed in a new shelter, it will be Francheska’s third.
“It’s really hard because I don’t tell my friends. I can’t,” the teen said. “Even though I’m just a teenager, it is really stressful.”
In the past year alone, the total shelter population has risen by 17% and the number of children has risen by 18%, city stats show.
Mayor Bloomberg said recently that the number of homeless children was increasing because of the recession.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral hopeful, has supported using public housing apartments and federal housing vouchers to move people out of shelters. The city, meanwhile, has opened at least nine new shelters this summer.
“Since just May, more than 2,000 children have become homeless,” said Ralph da Costa Nunez, CEO of the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. “If the trend continues, we will surely see more than 20,000 children living in shelters by Christmas — a gift that nobody wants.”