Families Without Homes: A Q&A with Ralph da Costa Nunez of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness

Photo by Jeff Coltin
Ralph da Costa Nunez.

Families Without Homes: A Q&A with Ralph da Costa Nunez of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness

Families Without Homes: A Q&A with Ralph da Costa Nunez, president and CEO of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness
May 8, 2017

The number of families in homeless shelters increased by one-third between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, according to a report released in April by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. New York Nonprofit Media spoke with Ralph da Costa Nunez, the organization’s president and CEO as well as a veteran of city and state government, about the study. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. You can listen to the full interview here

NYN: What happens when you put data on homelessness on a map? What do you see?

RN: Some (City Council) districts in the city of New York have no shelters at all, yet every district in the city of New York has homeless children.

Your typical homeless person in the city happens to be a 12-, 13-, 14-year-old kid. It’s not the adult you think.

NYN: The report seems to show homelessness continuing for more than one generation – what’s happening?

RN: If you go to the shelter today, you’ll see kids who were children in the Dinkins and Koch administrations who now come with their own children and they’re homeless. So we have perpetuated a certain part of the population that this is the way they live, this is what they know.

RELATED: Will de Blasio break the homelessness cycle?

NYN: Can you talk about why shelters should be leveraged as community resource centers?

RN: The mayor talks about building 90 new shelters. Well, when are we going to make some kind of a change here and decide that something different has to be done?

What (New York City Mayor Bill) de Blasio should do is go a step further. Let’s leave Tier II housing, which he’s talking about building, and let’s go to a third tier. It’s not a shelter, but it’s a community residence with all of the services of day care, of after-school programs. The main core are employment programs, educational programs for the parents, a health clinic and (then) open it to the community as well as the families residing there. Now you have a residential community resource center. Communities aren’t opposed to that.


Aimée Simpierre

NYN Editor

Aimée coordinates all editorial content for New York Nonprofit Media’s print edition, website, daily newsletter and podcasts. She also serves as host at various NYN Media events and is a member of City & State’s editorial board. Aimée grew up studying music in an East Harlem nonprofit, Manna House Workshops, where she has served as a receptionist, camp counselor, development associate and board member. Most recently she served as director of development and communications at Riis Settlement. Aimée holds a B.S. from Barnard College and an M.S. from the Columbia University School of Journalism. She also spent nearly a decade supervising editorial assistants on the now-defunct national desk of the Associated Press. Of the awards she has received, her favorite is the John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship, which was presented to her by Yoko Ono. Aimée is also a reverend and minister of music in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife, Myriam, and their diva daughter, Savanna.