Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces Plan To Turn The Tide On Homelessness

February 28, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio, standing alongside faith and community leaders, today unveiled 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.

In a speech at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, before an audience of nonprofit service providers, community leaders, and homeless New Yorkers, the Mayor outlined the timing and logistics of his plan to end the use of 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities. Replacing the sites will be 90 traditional shelters distributed across the five boroughs. 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. 

This announcement builds on reforms underway as a result of the Mayor’s 90-day review of homeless services, which comprehensively examined City homeless policies for the first time in decades. This review, which included focus groups and feedback from both nonprofit service providers and homeless New Yorkers, produced 46 critical reforms now underway to increase prevention, address street homelessness, improve shelter conditions and strengthen supports to help homeless New Yorkers transition from shelter to permanent housing.

“Today, we turn the page by launching a new, 21st century response to the 21st century reality of homelessness,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “For years, too many families have struggled against rising rents to stay in the homes and communities they love. Our plan will continue to bring more people off the streets, reduce the number of shelter sites by almost half, while strengthening services and keeping homeless New Yorkers closer to the supports they need to help them get back on their feet. It will take a united effort and the help of many New Yorkers, but together will turn the tide of homelessness.”

“This is the next phase of our administration’s comprehensive efforts to better serve the homeless and communities across New York City,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services. “We will end the use of cluster apartments and commercial hotels, implement a borough-based placement system, and forge a new compact with communities.  Homelessness is a is citywide problem that requires a citywide solution, and we ask all New Yorkers to lend their compassion and support to their homeless neighbors as we work to implement this plan.”

“Homelessness increased 115 percent in New York City between 1994 and 2014,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “In response, this administration implemented an aggressive prevention-first strategy that provided rental assistance to 161,000 households for whom an emergency could have resulted in eviction and increased funding for legal services tenfold that helped reduce evictions by 24 percent and keep 40,000 New Yorkers in their homes. At the same time, we provided rental assistance to help 51,000 New Yorkers move out of shelter and avoid coming into shelter and redoubled our efforts to help our homeless neighbors off the streets, including nearly 700 individuals since the launch of HOME-STAT. This plan is the next step in that systematic approach—a citywide roadmap for more effectively addressing the homelessness impacting all five boroughs.”

The City’s 114-page plan outlines a vision that relies on three key strategies to address the homelessness crisis, integrating current successful tactics with a new, reimagined shelter strategy:

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  • 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;
  • Launch today’s reimagined shelter strategy that will:
    (1) Completely eliminate the use of cluster apartment units by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023;
    (2) Reduce the current number of shelter
    sites by 45 percent; and
    (3) Keep homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and supports that they need.

The City 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 City 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.

The plan acknowledges that in the past, the City has not always sufficiently brought communities to the table as partners in addressing homelessness. Homeless shelters would often be opened in the middle of the night with little or no notice provided to surrounding communities. This administration pledges to continue its commitment to providing at least 30 days’ notice to the surrounding community prior to opening a new shelter, while maintaining robust engagement throughout the process that is responsive to community input and creating a community advisory board after the site opens. For the first time, the administration will also notify communities simultaneously when renting rooms at commercial hotels during this transition period while new shelter capacity comes online.

Click here to access a copy of the full plan, “Turning the Tide on Homelessness, Neighborhood by Neighborhood.”

Housing New Yorkers: Keeping People in Their Homes, Enhancing Street Outreach, Securing Permanent Housing

Homelessness in New York City is a challenge that has grown over decades, with the Department of Homeless Services shelter census increasing 115 percent between 1994 and 2014:

  • Launched HOME-STAT, the nation’s most comprehensive street outreach program, doubling the number of street homeless outreach workers from 191 to 387 and increasing the availability of case management and other targeted services tailored to the individual needs of homeless New Yorkers. The City’s HOME-STAT outreach teams—mobilized citywide 24 hours per day, seven days a week—help bring homeless individuals into shelter, including 690 individuals helped off the streets last year.
  • Increased investments in rental assistance, eviction prevention services, and other rehousing programs since 2014, including a tenfold increase in legal services for tenants from $6.4 million to $62 million – which helped more than 50,000 New Yorkers transition to or keep their permanent housing, with evictions down 24 percent between 2013 and 2016.
  • Implementing a 15,000-unit supportive housing plan, the largest municipal commitment ever to build and expand housing with supportive services, including mental and physical healthcare access, alcohol and substance use programs, and other social services. It is a proven, cost-effective approach to delivering stability and permanently housing New Yorkers who struggle with mental illness, homelessness and substance use while reducing reliance on homeless shelters, hospitals, and mental health institutions. 

Since 2014, the de Blasio Administration has worked to systematically address the city’s homelessness problem.

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