Every one of New York City’s street homeless people — a population estimated to be as high as 4,000 — will be tracked down and personally evaluated to figure out why they’re sleeping outside, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
The street assessments are done by a team of city caseworkers, a force expected to grow to 312 by March from 175 now, with muscle provided by the NYPD where necessary.
Seeking to stanch the record-high number of people living in shelters, nearly 58,000; and on the streets, between 3,000 and 4,000; the mayor did a series of radio and television interviews Friday that capped a week of shake-ups of how his administration deals with homelessness, beginning with Tuesday’s abruptly announced resignation of his homelessness chief, Gilbert Taylor.
“We will have the ability to send teams of trained outreach workers who can literally work with each homeless individual on what their needs are — encourage them as much as possible off — to, you know, get off the streets and get to the services we have available,” de Blasio told WNYC radio’s Brian Lehrer.
The team’s main territory is 145th Street to Canal Street, though other homeless hot spots also are expected to be targeted. De Blasio said he encouraged people who were concerned with a particular location to report it to the city’s 311 hotline; he promised a team would be on scene within an hour.
“We’re going to have, for each individual on the street, an understanding of what they need to get off the street,” he told Lehrer.
Each homeless person will be assigned a caseworker, de Blasio said, though under the law anyone has a right to be on the street unless he or she is committing a crime.
Taylor’s resignation is part of a 90-day review process de Blasio also announced Tuesday. Taylor is being replaced on an interim basis by Steve Banks, commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration, the welfare agency.
De Blasio has blamed the homelessness increase on the cancellation of a housing program by the state, as well as gentrification and other economic conditions such as the 2008 recession.
“Something went wrong in their life and they ended up on the street,” de Blasio told John Gambling on WNYM/970 AM. He added: “What will help get them back on their feet?”