Ask a Candidate: Quizzing de Blasio on Homelessness

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Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office.

Mayor de Blasio

 

What do you want to know about a mayoral candidate’s ideas, a Council hopeful’s background or the campaign contributions that someone running for borough president has received? Send us your question and we’ll do our best to get you an answer, then post the results below.
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Senugent823 asks:

Why do you think the homeless crisis has exploded since you took office? And what will you do to reverse this trend? What do you think the underlying causes of this problem are?


Mayor de Blasio answers:

New York City is experiencing a new kind of homelessness that is driven by years of wages not keeping up with the cost of housing in our city, decades of changes in our economy, and past choices made in New York City, Albany and Washington.

Today, 70 percent of shelter residents are families. They are the invisible majority of our homeless crisis. The reality is these families, including those that are working, are struggling to make ends meet.

In the first month of the Giuliani Administration, there were 23,868 New Yorkers in shelters. In the first month of the Bloomberg Administration, that had risen to 31,009. In the first month of the de Blasio Administration, there were more than 51,470 people in our shelters.

With this Administration’s  aggressive prevention and rehousing programs taking hold, we have broken the exponential growth trajectory of the census (which increased 115 percent between 1994 and 2014, including jumping 38 percent between 2011 and 2014 alone following the end of the Advantage rental assistance program by the City and State).

As part of our prevention-and-people-first strategy, we’ve helped 20 percent of the 20,000 families who sought shelter so far this year avoid entering shelter altogether and remain in permanent housing within their communities and our rental assistance and rehousing programs have helped more than 64,000 New Yorkers exit shelter, totaling 161,000 New Yorkers who’ve kept their homes.

If not for the broad range of initiatives this Administration put in place upon taking office, projections indicate that we were heading to a shelter census of 71,000 in 2017 instead of the current level of about 60,000.

But we agree there’s much more to do. Earlier this year, we launched our Turning the Tide plan, a borough-based approach that will transform the shelter system. For the first time, the City is reimagining how we provide shelter to help families and individuals remain closer to their support networks, schools, families and houses of worship in the boroughs they last called home as they get back on their feet.

We committed to ending the use of cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities completely, replacing them with a much smaller number of shelters, an approach that is well underway and one that we believe will help our homeless neighbors stabilize their lives more effectively.

But that is only part of our work. Under this administration’s HOME-STAT initiative, we’ve successfully transitioned 865 New Yorkers off streets and into permanent housing. At the same time, we’ve made an unprecedented commitment to supportive housing with first units coming online this year and aggressively expanded free legal assistance for New Yorkers in danger of illegal eviction.

This crisis didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight. We know we have much more work to do and believe it is our responsibility to do even better than we have before, which is why we continue to make this a priority to the administration and will continue to in the next term if elected.

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