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City to tackle homeless crisis by boosting shelters, removing cluster sites

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 16:08:25-05

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his plan Tuesday afternoon to help get thousands of homeless New Yorkers off the streets.

The mayor unveiled a comprehensive borough-based plan to drive down the number of New Yorkers living in shelters.

The announcement includes removing 360 cluster sites and commercial hotels and replace them with 90 shelters.

According to de Blasio, they are also shifting within the affordable housing plan by making more apartments available to low-income New Yorkers, seniors and veterans.

“We’re doing that with our commitment to 15,000 new supportive apartments of which 550 will be available this year,” said Mayor de Blasio.

De Blasio said he plans to reduce the number of shelters by 45 percent.

He says it will be achieved by getting out of cluster apartments by 2021 and the use of hotels by 2023. The mayor said this is a new timeline they believe they can achieve.

According to the mayor, they’ll reduce the number cluster apartments and creating new facilities.

“Every neighborhood in this city has homeless people,” said de Blasio. “We need a shelter system that reflects where people come from.”

The mayor said the number of homeless people in New York City has continued to rise over the last 35 years.

“Right now, 70 percent of the folks in shelter are family members,” said de Blasio. Of those people, the mayor says 34 percent of those families have someone who is currently working, in training or in an education program.”

He says he believes they can “disrupt the status quo” and the city has the ability to make a difference. That progress he emphasizes, will be incremental.

“The more we work together, the better it will go,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Any way you slice it, it will be about incremental progress.”

The mayor says the problem comes from economics “that have cut very hard against working people.”

In New York City from 2000 to 2014, average rent increased 19 percent even after being adjusted for inflation. As a result of the great recession, the average real household income declined 6.3 percent.

“And right in the middle of that, in 2011, one of the most successful anti-homeless initiatives that this city had ever undertaken was canceled,” said de Blasio.

The Advantage program started in 2007 and offered subsidies to help people in shelters afford apartments. The number of people in shelters skyrocketed to 15,000, Mayor de Blasio said.

Mayor de Blasio said it’s taken years to realize some of the “hard truths” about the homelessness crisis in New York City. The shelters are so crowded that the city has to spend about $400,000 a day on hotel rooms.

Protests have erupted throughout communities, especially Queens, about using hotels to shelter the homeless.

Residents of Maspeth protested turning a Holiday Inn into a homeless shelter. De Blasio noted that the city can work closer with communities and hear their concerns.

“We can work with communities to find better approaches even if there’s always going to be some resistance to a facility in a neighborhood,” said de Blasio.

There are currently 60,000 homeless people spending their nights in city shelters.

Officials say the number is up 10 percent since de Blasio took office.