February 27, 2017; New York Times and N.Y. Newsday
Homelessness in New York City has been steadily climbing for three decades as wages have stagnated and housing costs increase. Yesterday, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced his plan to address the city’s 60,390 people without homes: NYC will open 90 new shelters in five years.
The city will open 20 new shelters in 2017 and 20 in 2018. Existing buildings will be used to open shelters, and 30 current shelters will be renovated and expanded. The city would have access to $300 million in the capital budget and direct funds from the homeless services budget to accomplish their goals, which include decreasing the number of homeless people in the next five years by 2,500.
The mayor’s plan will replace the hotels and cluster sites (multiple apartments in low-income neighborhoods) currently in use, scattering shelters among the five boroughs. The goal is to stop using hotels to house the homeless by 2023 and stop using cluster sites by 2021. Cluster sites have drawn the focus of lawmakers, advocates for the homeless and the communities where they exist.
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In a speech before social service advocates, de Blasio conceded that the plan would not win many friends politically. “It doesn’t take us to Nirvana by any sense of the imagination,” he said. “This is a blood-and-guts war strategy because we will be fighting this war for a long time.”
The mayor didn’t specify the sites for the future shelters, but did emphasize the point that the communities affected will be included in the conversation. “We owe communities…better notifications, more accountability, more community input.”
Christine Quinn, the mayor’s adversary in the last election, runs WIN, a nonprofit shelter network for families and women. Quinn was present at the speech; she sees the goals as “realistic,” saying, “There is no quick fix.”—Marian Conway