NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- New York City has opened nine new shelters in the last two months in efforts to handle the city's rapidly growing homeless population, officials said.
The city recorded 43,731 homeless people in shelters this week, which is up 18 percent from the 37,143 at the same time last year, The New York Times reported.
Recognizing a need for more shelters, city officials decided to quickly open the nine shelters -- five in the Bronx, two in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn -- giving little notice to the communities they were opened in.
"We do have to move quickly, and we have to always make sure that we have enough capacity," said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the city's Department of Homeless Services. "The one thing we cannot do is have families come in and not have a place for them."
However, local leaders criticized the effort of DHS, saying the city needs a long-term plan to deal with the homeless.
"This is no way to meet the needs of vulnerable citizens in this city by simply packing in hundreds and hundreds of people in the dead of night without a long-range plan," said Manhattan's borough president, Scott M. Stringer.
While a weak economy and rising housing costs are main causes of the spike in homelessness in New York City, Diamond said the end of Advantage, the city's main rent-subsidy program for homeless families, has played a significant role in the increase in homelessness.
"We are in a very difficult environment with a very successful program that ended very abruptly," Diamond, the homeless services commissioner, said. "At that point, we said the result would be a significant increase in the homeless population. The tragedy of losing Advantage was not just that we lost it, but that we lost it at a time when money was so tight that it was almost impossible to get it back."