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Can Mayor De Blasio’s Homeless Outreach Plan Be Effective?

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NYC Council member Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights)

By: KCP Staff

Stephen Levin (D-Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg) and Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) on Friday blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Outreach NYC plan to rein in the homeless crisis.

Under the de Blasio Administration plan, which was released last week, the city will provide comprehensive, systematic, training to 18,000 City employees across five agencies, including the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the Fire Department (FDNY), the Department of Buildings (DOB), and the Parks Department, on how to use the 311 app in all of its platforms to submit Service Requests (SRs) related to individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

These SRs will be routed to the City’s new Joint Command Center (JCC), managed by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and NYPD, where interagency staff will analyze trends, triage requests, and prioritize and deploy multi-Agency responses as appropriate, including to provide collaborative assistance to more challenging cases involving high-needs individuals.

But Levin, chair of the council’s General Welfare Committee, said while well-intentioned, Outreach NYC is not the solution for reducing the number of people sleeping on the street and in the subways.

“The City has decided to put forth a new policy no one asked for, rather than tackle the crux of the issue. We need to listen to people with lived experience and providers who are doing this work every day. They know what solutions are needed. These solutions are certain to cost money and force us to re-examine our priorities and rethink how we approach onerous and outdated policies, but we’ve been calling homeless a crisis in NYC for far too long. We need to not put forward a crisis level response,” said Levin.

Levin said what is most frustrating is the city has solutions it knows will work to curb the homeless crisis. They include:

  • Shelter providers, outreach workers and homeless serving organizations have repeatedly called for significantly more and easier access to safe haven beds which is a lower threshold model for shelter where we know people feel more safe than the large intake shelters.
  • Adoption of the House our Future NY platform and pass Councilmember Rafael Salamanca’s bill Int. 1211, which would ensure greater housing set-asides for homeless New Yorkers in affordable housing developments. The administration could announce their support for this platform today if they wanted to.
  • A voucher system that actually covers the cost of a real NYC rent. We know that many individuals and families have vouchers for many months or even years without being able to find an apartment with the rent at the voucher amount.
  • Real health and mental healthcare options. Right now, someone in crisis has to wait up to two days for a mobile response team to come out, far too late for people who need an emergency response.

             (Kings County Politics)

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