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Queens Chronicle

Outreach NYC: now recruiting family

De Blasio plan aims to unite homeless with relatives, but some are skeptical

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:30 am

Just 10 days after announcing Outreach NYC, the newest initiative to combat the city homelessness crisis, Mayor de Blasio revealed his plans to expand the program to friends and family of unsheltered New Yorkers.

“We are a compassionate City, and New Yorkers look out for one another,” de Blasio said at the Tuesday, Nov. 26, announcement. “With Outreach NYC, we are redoubling our efforts to bring our most vulnerable off the streets and into a pathway of lasting stability.”

The latest phase of the initiative aims to make the reunion of homeless persons with family and friends possible. Those interested in reconnecting with unsheltered loved ones can submit a report to 311 with a relationship-signifying keyword, such as “mother,” “sister” or “friend.” The Department of Homeless Services will follow up to collaborate with the family with a common goal of moving the individual towards stability.

Unsheltered people must allow permission for their confidential client case to be shared with their family and friends in order for DHS to facilitate the reconnection.

“Homeless New Yorkers living on the streets are among the most vulnerable members of our community, and we refuse to ignore their struggle,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Raul Perea-Henze. “Loved ones are key allies in our campaign to help homeless New Yorkers find a path off the streets and toward stability, and we urge all family and friends to use 311 and contact us for assistance.”

The first stages of the initiative included training for 18,000 employees within the departments of Sanitation, Health and Mental Hygiene, Buildings and Parks and the FDNY throughout the five boroughs, which the de Blasio administration claims has been completed. When confronted with an unsheltered or homeless individual, agency staff is required to submit Service Requests via 311. The DHS will analyze trends and triage requests in order to deploy Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams in real time. Homeless individuals can accept outreach help, but cannot be involuntarily removed from the street.

“With the family and friends of New Yorkers experiencing unsheltered homelessness helping our HOME-STAT teams further target their outreach and meet people where they are, we remain squarely focused on taking this progress further,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks.

Outreach NYC comes as the next step in de Blasio’s goal to decrease homelessness — which has increased under his administration — following the 2016 HOME-STAT introduction and 2017 Turning the Tide on Homelessness plan to revamp the shelter system over the course of five years.

While the initiative is well intended, the Coalition for the Homeless is uncertain whether it will have a positive effect, believing that the announcements have been too vague for the group to take a stance.

“It’s frustrating that the mayor’s outreach plans are completely devoid of housing resources,” Policy Analyst for the Coalition Jacquelyn Simone told the Chronicle. “These plans are not effective unless you have a place for homeless people to go. The real issue is not about more eyes and ears but it’s more about getting people those housing resources. We have a lack of supply of affordable housing ... there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding increase [in affordable housing] and that’s the missing piece with these announcements.

“We need to rethink this misguided notion that people on the street are resistant to services; rather, it’s that those services are not always appropriate for their needs. If we want to get serious about reducing homelessness, we need to offer low threshold safe haven shelters and permanent affordable housing.”

Councilmember Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) believes that money should be put into more effective programs to address the homeless crisis, rather than hiring more agency workers.

“I would rather see more money be spent on treating the seriously mentally ill and those who have other severe problems that caused them to become homeless,” Holden told the Chronicle. “We should be addressing those root causes first by helping those in dire need, not adding more outreach and training programs that have clearly not been effective thus far. Let’s hope that Outreach NYC is not just another de Blasio administration public relations program with all talk and no action that we’ve all seen before.”

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1 comment:

  • Linnster posted at 12:11 pm on Fri, Dec 6, 2019.

    Linnster Posts: 10

    Only our ignorant and useless mayor would fail to realize that you need to have someplace to put these homeless people when you take them off the streets. He is not proposing additional affordable housing, so where does he intend to store these people, many of which have the added problem of mental illness? Use the millions of wasted dollars on his wife's "initiative" to refurbish abandoned buildings owned by the City. His wife's charity has not proven in any instance that the funds she was given have helped any appreciable number of people.