City officials are making sure residents at all New York City homeless shelters are safe through a new set of improvements.
As part of a 90-day widespread review of homeless services, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday a new program that aims to improve safety at the shelters throughout the city.
The new measures include immediate retraining of all Department of Homeless Services security staff by the NYPD and the police department will send a management team to DHS to develop an action plan to upgrade security at all shelter facilities.
Family shelters are also expected to restore a domestic violence program and the city will implement a more extensive reporting system for incidents that happen at the shelter locations.
“I’ve been clear that we are going to own the challenges of homelessness and be transparent about how serious they are and what we are doing to deal with them,” de Blasio said. “We want homeless shelters to be safe and clean, but at the same time we must and we will continue to move families out and prevent them from coming to shelter in the first place.”
Currently DHS provides security at the shelters through a mixture of DHS peace officers, contracted FJC security guards and by directly funding shelter providers to offer security at the sites.
The NYPD will immediately begin retraining all DHS security staff, and security has been increased at mental health shelters and commercial hotels used as shelters.
The city will also re-establish a domestic violence program at the shelters that was terminated in 2010. Based on a new analysis, according to officials, violence within families is the most common form of violent incident in family shelters.
According to the city, Families with Children shelters saw 60 percent of violent incidents being domestic violence, and Adult Family shelters saw 80 percent of such incidents.
The Human Resources Administration’s No Violence Again (NoVA) Out-stationed Domestic Violence Services will be expanded to shelters to offer families the access to domestic violence services.
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence will also work with DHS to implement system-wide intimate partner violence (IPV) training for DHS employees and contracted staff. DHS will have a senior official in charge of coordinating the delivery of domestic violence services and other related services.
“Restoring in-reach programs throughout the shelter system will help identify many more New Yorkers, who otherwise would suffer in silence,” said Mary Brosnahan, president and CEO of Coalition for the Homeless.
As part of the new measures, the city has also set forth a new more inclusive and accurate reporting of critical incidents that occur within the shelters. This also includes, for the first time, separate reporting of violent incidents.
Previously, DHS reported “critical incidents” which included only some violent incidents. The review found that definitions of such incidents were unclear and inconsistently reported across the agency.
Now, new reporting categories have been created and have been applied to all 2015 incidents which were reported to DHS. Violence for the critical incidents at the shelters now includes wider definitions of domestic violence, assault and both child abuse and neglect.
Through these measures the city hopes to address the incidents and provide proper follow-ups.
“Homelessness may be synonymous with despair — but protecting homeless women and children from brutality and providing them the emotional support to heal are the two keys essentials to shifting their lives towards hope and prosperity,” Brosnahan said.