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Thursday, March 30, 2017
- Police Commissioner William Bratton has publicly declared that homelessness in New York City has “exploded” over the last two years.
He blamed the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio for playing down the problem far too long. “A mistake the administration made early on was not validating what everyone was seeing”: the rise in street homelessness, he noted.
“It hasn’t crept on us,” Bratton told a panel discussion on quality-of-life issues at the Manhattan Institute, described as a conservative think tank.
Providing stark statistics and confirming the growing problem, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said the State of New York alone has an estimated 75,323 homeless people — out of a total population of about eight million.
But New York City, described as the world’s political and cultural capital, accounts for over 58,000 homeless people, largely living in publicly-funded shelters.
The problem of homelessness, which affects millions of people in the developing world, is fast becoming a socio-economic problem in one of the world’s most affluent nations.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are more than 610,000 people who remain homeless on any given night in the US.
The news of the rising homeless population coincided with an announcement by de Blasio for a 2.5 billion dollar, 15-year plan to build 15,000 housing units—largely for veterans and mentally-disabled people.
De Blasio said homeless people on the streets of New York City “make many New Yorkers uncomfortable, and even fearful.”
The Mayor plans to launch a new initiative called NYC Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Team or HOME-STAT.
The primary objective of HOME-STAT, which will be fully operational in March 2016, is to collect data and track the homeless in real time.
“In the face of skyrocketing housing costs, wages remaining flat, and the plummeting number of rent-regulated apartments, thousands upon thousands of families simply can’t afford their rent,” he told business leaders.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the city spends billions of dollars annually on homeless programs and plans to spend an additional one billion dollars over the next four years.
De Blasio said: “I want to make something clear. It is not illegal to be homeless, and those experiencing this painful reality take no joy in it.”
“But it is illegal, “said the Mayor, to harass New Yorkers, use drugs, erect a makeshift shelter, urinate in public and commit other quality-of-life crimes.”