New plan announced to ease homelessness crisis

As the number of homeless New Yorkers continues to escalate, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a new plan to attack the problem.

The multi-pronged approach calls for stopping the city’s practice of temporarily moving homeless people into apartments and commercial hotels, and instead establishing 90 new shelters and expanding 30 existing sites across the city, near schools, houses of worship and support systems. 

The city will stamp out the use of 360 “cluster site” apartments by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023. In addition, the mayor says his administration will also ramp up efforts to stop illegal evictions and continue building housing for low-income renters.

The plan is the result of a series of meetings between the mayor’s administration, homeless New Yorkers and nonprofit service providers to deliver recommendations. It would “reduce the number of shelter sites by almost half, while strengthening services and keeping homeless New Yorkers closer to the supports they need to help them get back on their feet,” the mayor said.

About 20 new shelters would open annually over the next five years, requiring building new locations and renovating existing buildings. The number of homeless living in shelters would be reduced by 2,500 people over five years with the help of housing initiatives, according to the plan.

The mayor acknowledged that there have been tensions between communities and the city’s homeless administration and promised to address them. Shelters have routinely been opened in secrecy in neighborhoods across the city to avoid public criticism. To ease those tensions, the mayor said his administration will provide at least 30 days’ notice to communities before new shelters are opened and create community advisory boards to keep residents abreast of developments after sites open.

The administration will also notify communities when it rents rooms in commercial hotels to house homeless people during this transition period as new shelter capacity becomes available.

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