Photo Courtesy of Edwin Torres/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday released a 114-page “comprehensive borough-based plan to reduce the footprint of New York City’s homeless shelter system and drive down the population of homeless New Yorkers relying on shelter.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
Mayor Bill de Blasio this week unveiled what he has characterized as a “comprehensive borough-based plan to reduce the footprint of New York City’s homeless shelter system and drive down the population of homeless New Yorkers relying on shelter.”
Titled “Turning the Tide on Homelessness, Neighborhood by Neighborhood,” the 114-page vision to address the homelessness crisis outlines the timing and logistics of ending the use of 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities. Replacing the sites will be 90 traditional shelters distributed across the five boroughs. According to the administration, the new network will be able to more effectively house the homeless near the communities, jobs, school, houses of worship and support systems needed to help them get back on track.
According to the City, “Turning the Tide…” relies on three strategies to address the homelessness crisis, integrating current successful tactics with a new shelter strategy:
- Continue to implement an aggressive prevention-first strategy that keeps more people in their homes by making housing more affordable, stopping illegal evictions, and connecting New Yorkers who are struggling to resources that will help them stabilize their lives;
- Continue to actualize the 46 reforms identified throughout the 90-day review of homeless services, making long-needed operational and other reforms to better serve New Yorkers on the verge of homelessness and homeless New Yorkers in shelter;
- Completely eliminate the use of cluster apartment units by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023; reduce the current number of shelter sites by 45 percent; and keep homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and supports that they need.
The City said it will eliminate the use of 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities and replace them with approximately 90 new shelter facilities and 30 expanded existing sites. The administration estimates opening about 20 new shelters annually over the next five years, which will require a combination of building new locations and renovating existing buildings. At the same time, prevention and rehousing initiatives will reduce the current number of homeless New Yorkers in shelter by 2,500 people over five years – the first projected systemic reduction of New York City’s homeless shelter population in a decade.
South Queens political leaders weren’t impressed with the new “…Tide…”
“Mayor de Blasio set expectations so incredibly low today that you have to wonder if he was even being serious. Over the next four years, he aims to move a mere 2,500 people out of the shelter system. This is an insult to the 60,000 plus New Yorkers who are desperately waiting for permanent housing,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “Homelessness is at an all-time high. It is a serious issue and deserves serious, thoughtful solutions. Instead of feuding with the Governor, the Mayor should be fighting in Albany to bring back Section 8 vouchers. Instead of building more shelters, the Mayor should be investing in transitional housing programs that actually work by encouraging rehabilitation and upward mobility. The Mayor should also fire his DHS Commissioner, Steven Banks, for doing an abysmal job running this Agency. Until there are real programs, real solutions and real accountability – we will not see real progress or help for the people who need it the most.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he believed the mayor was “short on explaining how he plans to fund this program, or who will provide the essential services for homeless individuals, or how the community will be included in the site selection for the 90 new shelter sites.”