What is the best way to combat homelessness? Research has shown that supportive housing, which provides tenants with long-term rent subsidies and support services, is highly effective-about 90 per cent of chronically homeless people who enter supportive housing remain housed after two years. 90 Sands Street, a newly renovated skyscraper in Brooklyn, offers 305 such units. Jennifer Egan reports from the facility, where she spends time with several tenants: Jessica (not her real name), who is frank about her heroin use and troubled history and spoke often of wanting to go back to school for culinary arts; Kenneth Roberson, a former gang member who lived in city shelters for years before moving in to 90 Sands; Russell Reavesbey, who often finds solace in his "one-in-a-million" cat and dreams of becoming a veterinary assistant. "Some 300 individuals who, for years, slept on stoops, steps, roofs, in stairwells, under scaffolding and under bridges, in abandoned buildings, outside Starbucks, inside Macy's, freezing through subzero New York winters and sweating on the sidewalk through broiling summers are presently housed," Egan writes. "Many still live in poverty, often without having finished high school, and are hobbled by disabilities and criminal records that make panhandling a more lucrative job than any other they might conceivably obtain (and getting a full-time job would terminate their benefits and thus their guarantee of housing). Some have problems that can't easily be solved, particularly after decades of turmoil have erased any memory of a stable baseline, if they ever had one. But it would seem inarguable that they have a better chance of meeting these challenges now, while housed, than they did while they were living on the streets."
At a supportive-housing facility, chronically unhoused New Yorkers get a new lease on life, with a gym, a computer room—and on-site mental-health and medical services.