Hope for the Homeless, Or Not So Much?

NEWS
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With the homeless population exceeding 60,000 in New York City and the city recently resorting to using hotels, including local ones like La Quinta Inn and Playland, to house homeless, it’s become clear that something isn’t working. On Tuesday, February 28, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a conference to lay out his solutions for the growing homeless problem in the city.

In his plan, the mayor said the city is going to stop utilizing hotels and private apartments in “cluster sites” to house the homeless population. Instead, there will be 90 new homeless shelters across the city over the next five years. The mayor did not specify where these sites would be, but said communities would receive 30-days notice before a new shelter was made. However, he stressed that doesn’t mean the city would change its mind just because the community doesn’t want it. “That does not mean, if there’s protest we will change our minds. It means we want people to come to the table with us, offer their concerns, if they have an alternative location, we’ll look at that too,” he said.

The mayor said that his plan would only reduce the number of people in shelters by 2,500 by the end of 2021. “Is it a gloryful goal? Is it everything we want it to be? No. It’s the honest goal,” de Blasio said. Local politicans criticized de Blasio’s plan, saying that it’s not enough.

"Mayor de Blasio set expectations so incredibly low 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,” Councilman Eric Ulrich, a longtime opponent of the mayor, said. "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 Senator Joe Addabbo also weighed in. "We have heard and read in the past directly from the Mayor's administration on how it was to curtail the use of hotels as shelter for homeless individuals, only to witness an increase throughout Queens. In spite of all the limited facts and figures, I believe 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," Addabbo said. "Instead of addressing the issue of having a sound short- and long-term plan to actually help an individual, either before that person or their family become homeless or subsequently thereafter, with the adequate services and assistance to get them back on their feet, this administration has continued to increasingly fund DHS without any clear, precise plan for credibly dealing with this foreseeable growing homeless crisis. I am hopeful that in the days and weeks following the Mayor's announcement, we can work together to include the community and elected leaders to supplement this new initiative with details and ideas that truly help those in need."

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