In the 1980s, family homelessness became a visible and serious problem for New York City, and was no longer an issue that the public or the government could ignore. Homes for the Homeless founder and Hartz Group Chairman Leonard N. Stern recalls a cold evening in 1985 when he took a walk in City Hall Park, and remembers the outrage and sadness he felt at discovering a large number of homeless families sleeping there. Aware that finding a solution to family homelessness would not be simple, Mr. Stern founded Homes for the Homeless (HFH) in 1986 as a public-private partnership between City government, private business, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This new partnership focused on alleviating the effects of poverty in New York City, and on providing supportive programs and shelter to homeless families.
Founded with the belief that it takes more than housing to end homelessness, HFH created a community of support within each of its family shelters, known as American Family Inns. Over the years, HFH has added valuable new programs into this community of opportunity. In 1989, Homes for the Homeless Summer Camps Kiwago, Lanowa and Wakonda opened in Harriman State Park, providing unforgettable summer experiences to homeless children in New York City. In 1990, the Institute for Children and Poverty (ICP) was founded to conduct research on the effects of poverty and homelessness on children in America. In 1991, HFH developed New York State's first Crisis Nursery, to protect children at risk of abuse, neglect, and potential foster care placement.
There are more homeless families in New York City than ever before. With nearly 10,000 homeless families and 15,000 children living in the shelter system, and up to 100 new families applying for shelter at the city's PATH office each day, Homes for the Homeless continues to serve record numbers.