Photo via Wikimedia
In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened just 10 out of the 20 shelters planned for New York City under an initiative aimed at curbing the city’s growing homelessness crisis. Last February, the city unveiled its “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan that included opening 90 shelters over five years, with about 20 shelters each in 2017 and 2018. But, according to the New York Times, the city fell short of its target last year, opening just half the number of shelters planned due to delays in the permit process, time-consuming negotiations with nonprofits that run the shelters and backlash from the community and public officials. Under de Blasio, the homeless population has grown. When the mayor took office in 2014, about 68,000 New Yorkers were without homes. Today, roughly 77,000 people are considered homeless in NYC, with 3,900 on the street, the largest homeless population in the U.S.
Steven Banks, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Social Services, told the Times that while the agency was confident the city would meet its goal this spring, 2017 had served as a reality check.
“If it was easy to do, the shelter system wouldn’t have developed in a haphazard way over three and a half decades,” Banks said in an interview with the Times. “We set an ambitious goal to keep commitments to providing better client services and more community engagement. We’re confident that at the end of the five-year plan, we will get to the 90 shelters.”
Typically when the city announces plans to open a shelter, especially those set aside for single men, officials face pushback from local residents. Last March, de Blasio announced three new shelters were set to open in Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood already saturated with NYCHA housing and shelters. Despite protests from local residents and a temporary restraining order that caused a three-month delay, the city eventually opened a shelter for 104 elderly men.
Last week, de Blasio said a new homeless shelter for 150 single adult men will open on Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row at 158 West 58th Street. Residents in the affluent neighborhood expressed their concerns following the mayor’s announcement. The director of security for One57, an ultra-luxurious supertall known for its $100 million penthouse apartment, told the New York Post he was “concerned” for his guests. “I don’t know if these gentlemen are violent, I don’t know what to expect,” he said.
Part of the problem continues to be the public perception of homeless men. Frederick Shack of the Urban Pathways, a shelter provider told the Times: “All of the data shows that homeless people on the street are more likely to be victims of crime, not perpetrators of crime. They are at risk, they have disabilities, and they need support.”
[Via NY Times]
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