Rapid-response teams will hit “every single block” of Manhattan from Chinatown to central Harlem, searching for homeless people living on the street and responding to public complaints within an hour, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
Inviting a handful of the “NYC Home Stat Homeless Outreach” workers clad in fluorescent-colored uniforms to the front of a business leaders breakfast, de Blasio said the teams would focus on the area from Canal Street to 145th Street in Manhattan and parts of the other boroughs. He said the teams would begin work immediately.
De Blasio said he’s compelled to dispatch the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams after hearing “loud and clear” the “deep concerns of so many New Yorkers” about homeless people.
“Their presence is very upsetting to many New Yorkers,” de Blasio told a meeting of the Association for a Better New York held in a Grand Hyatt hotel ballroom. “It makes people uncomfortable seeing someone on the street.”
With the help of the police where necessary, the teams of social services workers measure the extent of the problem, offer services and arrest lawbreakers.
There are currently 175 of the homelessness workers and there will be 312 by March, according to the mayor’s office.
In an apparent rejoinder to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — a persistent de Blasio critic who has said he fears New York City is sliding back to the bad old days of the 1970s and ’80s — de Blasio promised, “On my watch, we will never go back to those bad old days.”
After the breakfast, Police Commissioner William Bratton said that in the new year, he would be proposing legislation to address court-imposed restrictions on the NYPD’s ability to move along or arrest homeless people. As an example, he cited an existing law barring begging within a certain distance of a bank ATM.
He said he would expand that prohibition to any ATM, such as one at a bodega.
De Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton would not say when asked directly whether the mayor supported Bratton’s proposal.
The city’s record-setting number of homeless people — now above 57,000 — has become a political headache for de Blasio.