New York City is taking on the issue of homelessness with a new approach that aims to not only find permanent homes for those living in shelters, but also prevent New Yorkers from losing their homes in the first place.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that as a result of a 90-day review of homeless services, the city has come up with a widespread plan which will make sure services are given efficiently and effectively with a focus on prevention and rehousing.
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“The homeless population has changed, but the way we fight homelessness hasn’t. It’s time to bring new approaches and resources to keep vulnerable New Yorkers in their homes and help those in shelters find new permanent homes,” said de Blasio.
The plan calls for no new money to combat homelessness. Instead, the city claims it will save money by combining two agencies that had been devoted to services for the homeless. According to the mayor, the four major elements to the new plan are prevention, rehousing, street level outreach and improving shelter conditions.
Under prevention, the city aims to actively identify and serve those who are considered to be most at-risk of becoming homeless.
With rehousing, officials plan to make the rental assistance program easier to navigate, improve aftercare services and also strictly enforce housing discrimination laws.
To tackle street homelessness, the city fully launched HOME-STAT, which requires prevention programs to reach out to people living out in the street to offer services, this year.
While the process was underway the city also created the shelter repair scorecard and increased security at all hotels housing homeless families and individuals.
“There is much work to do to improve conditions and services for homeless New Yorkers, and we are pleased that the city is taking this urgent work seriously,” said Mary Brosnahan, CEO of Coalition for the Homeless
As part of the plan, the city will set forth an combined management structure that will have the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) both reporting to one Commissioner of Social Services, who is currently HRA Commissioner Steven Banks.
Procedures that deal with prevention and rehousing at DHS will also be merged with those that perform the same tasks at HRA. For example, DHS’ homebase prevention unit will join HRA’s Homelessness Prevention Administration.
DHS will focus on managing and improving shelters while also developing new types of shelters.
To increase accountability across different city agencies, the city will also create an Interagency Homelessness Accountability Council.
“Our goal is to provide seamless services to clients designed to best help them with their specific problems, whether it’s to prevent homelessness or move from shelter permanently into the community,” said Steven Banks, DSS and HRA Commissioner.
As part of the 90-day review — which de Blasio ordered done in December — officials met with homeless people at shelters and on the streets, shelter and homeless services providers; elected officials; and staff at various city agencies.
In total, 24 government agencies and 60 nonprofit providers participated in the review process.
“As a result of our 90-day review, we now have a comprehensive plan, including significant policy changes and both programmatic and structural reforms that will enable us to do just that,” de Blasio said. “I urge the state, the providers, the advocates and homeless New Yorkers to join us in a new partnership to bring the homeless situation that has built up over the years under control.”