New York City’s former City Council speaker is taking Mayor Bill de Blasio to task for what she sees as his failing approach to dealing with the city’s homelessness problem.
“Clearly the city is aching in the face of this crisis that they know is not getting any better. They’re aching for the mayor to stand up,” Christine Quinn told The Wall Street Journal. “New Yorkers don’t hear that, they don’t see that, they don’t have anything to believe in.”
Quinn lost the Democratic mayoral primary to de Blasio three years ago. She currently serves as CEO of WIN, a nonprofit organization working for homeless women and children.
Quinn’s expressed frustration with the mayor’s efforts to reduce homelessness comes on the heels of reports that the population of city shelters surpassed 60,000 for the first time in history.
City shelters housed 36,464 adults and 23,554 children this week, according to the daily report posted by the Department of Homeless Services on its website.
The shelter population was 50,689 when de Blasio took office.
Furthermore, the city is failing to recognize the “forgotten face of homelessness,” Quinn wrote in an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Daily News.
“Despite what we see on the evening news, 70 percent of all homeless in New York City are families with children—the people we don’t see regularly, who are likely not panhandling on subway cars or sleeping on the sidewalk,” she wrote.
“These are women and children going about their daily lives, to work, to school, and, at the end of their day, going to bed in a shelter.”
Quinn calls on the city to expand the eligibility standards to give more families access to permanent supportive housing, which combines rental assistance with social services. She also urges the city to develop more shelters.
The city must do more to ensure that families who are able to leave shelter are provided the resources and support needed to keep them from falling back into homelessness.
About 10 percent of the family who left shelters for permanent housing last year returned to the shelter within one year, she said.
The mayor’s office responded to Quinn’s criticism by arguing that it has implemented increased rental assistance and anti-eviction programs as measures to reduce shelter populations. City Hall is also reaching out to communities and organizations that help homeless individuals.
“We have committed to communicating our plan to ensure each neighborhood share responsibility in housing our city’s most vulnerable,” said Deputy Press Secretary Aja Worthy-Davis. “Though the city oversees the full scope of the homeless strategy, our partners are invaluable in this process.”
De Blasio noted in an opinion piece he wrote for the Daily News on Wednesday that the homeless population started to escalate in 2011 when the previous administration stopped providing rental assistance.
"Since the start of our rental assistance programs in 2014, we've moved more than 45,000 people out of shelters and back into their own apartments, the mayor wrote. "Emergency rental assistance has helped some 390,000 people stay in their homes."
The city has also increased fund for lawyers to represent people fighting eviction in housing court, he added. The move has reduced evictions by 24 percent, he said.