JP Updates DeBlasio to Make Big Changes to Homeless Team and Policies by Faith Elliott
Calling it “an urgent priority,” Mayor Bill deBlasio announced Tuesday that he will be making some big changes to the way his administration deals with homelessness, This includes replacing his Commissioner of Homeless Services Gilbert Taylor, whose dismal performance at a recent City Council hearing had homeless advocates shaking their heads. DeBlasio said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks and First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris would be in charge of the reorganization.
Long criticized for not taking the burgeoning homeless problem seriously, deBlasio’s office said in a press release that he is undertaking the review to “ensure services are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible in order to prevent, reduce, and manage homelessness.”
The numbers are daunting. Among the most dramatic evidence of the city’s increase in homelessness are the shelter numbers, with approximately 60,000 people calling a shelter home. In addition, New Yorkers report homeless encampments cropping up, and an increase in numbers of homeless people on the subway and streets. And as if those numbers are not serious enough, the Mayor’s Management Report tells New Yorkers to expect an increase in homelessness next year. The report predicts that 3350 individuals will be sleeping “on the streets, in parks, under highways, on subways, and in the public transportation systems of New York City.” There were 3182 people in those circumstances this fiscal year, according to the annual street count taken each winter.
“There are serious problems with a mayor’s Management Report that is setting goals that go against the direction we want our city to go,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan, who oversaw a hearing on the report. “We’re disappointed by their failure to address the broader issue over the past two years.”
Whether or not it is too little, too late, among the plans being put forth by the city in the new homeless initiative are creating and implementing new rental assistance programs; creating a Shelter Repair Squad; expanding prevention services; expanding outreach; cleaning up 26 encampments and putting a system in place to monitor and clean up new encampments as they pop up; creating an Open Doors safe haven program and launching the City’s largest supportive housing program.
Gilbert Taylor will stay with the administration, according to deBlasio, but his role has not yet been defined. Taylor’s departure is the second loss for the department as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios Paoli quit in August.