While the homeless population is bigger at the Port Authority bus terminal and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, a growing number are finding shelter at New York’s airports, according to Volunteers of America. Since 1986, the 118-year-old nonprofit has provided outreach to the homeless at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports under a contract with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Volunteers of America, which has offices at LaGuardia and JFK, counted a monthly average of 45 chronic homeless people at LaGuardia in 2014, an 80 percent increase over the average month in 2011. On the coldest nights, as many as 50 took refuge at LaGuardia in East Elmhurst, Queens. JFK’s chronic homeless increased to an average of 33 per month, double the number in 2011.
“It’s a public space,” said Carmen Keaton, Volunteers of America’s director of community case management and facility operations. “You have a place to bathe. You have a place to eat. You have a place to panhandle for money, and a warm facility.”
Security guards won’t eject the homeless from the central terminal so long as they’re peaceful and don’t create a nuisance, Keaton said. Many develop relationships with concession workers, who give them food and drinks, she said.
Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said such groups as Volunteers of America help relocate the homeless to shelters when possible.