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CBS2 Demands Answers From Mayor On New York City's Homeless Crisis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With a recent spike in violence by the homeless, the mayor has vowed to get more aggressive with aggressive street people.

But why are there more people living on the streets?

On Monday, CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer demanded answers about the city's homeless crisis.

In a few short blocks Kramer saw one man going through an Upper West Side trash can looking for scraps to eat, drinking the dregs left in discarded bottles and cups. Another man was spotted on the street with his dog and all his possessions begging for cash. The dog's water and food bowls were placed on the sidewalk to accept donations. Then there was a woman claiming she was homeless and displaying a sign that said "broke but not broken," so hungry that when a trucker gave her a $1.50 she immediately ran to buy a bagel and a soda.

"To see that, I mean that's just pathetic," East Meadow resident Richie Gelorum said.

Looking at the woman, Gelorum blamed the city for not doing enough.

"That's totally unnecessary. With all the money that's in the city there's no reason to have someone sitting there like that begging," Gelorum said.

The increase in the number of homeless on the streets -- the increase in violent incidents like the homeless man who attacked a tourist over the weekend with a 2 by 4 -- have some wondering what's changed. Why are there so many more homeless?

Kramer demanded answers from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Kramer: "I'm wondering what has changed; what do you think has changed to bring more people on the streets of the city?"

De Blasio: "What has changed right now is it is summer and every summer we see this challenge in one form or fashion, and the other thing that's changed is the economy -- the cost of housing and what's happened to people's household economics."

The mayor also said that some of the street people have mental health issues. He said the first lady is working on a plan to deal with that.

The mayor is also trying to come up with a plan to get tough with the homeless who turn violent, and, frankly, terrorize New Yorkers.

"Anyone who might be a danger to themselves or to anyone else, we are going to aggressively address and we are going to find a way to address their needs and make sure they're not on the street," de Blasio said.

Kramer asked Gelorum what has changed.

"First of all, I think the higher-ups just don't care about the people underneath them," he said.

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, the apparent change has not gone unnoticed by a Manhattan civic association.

The 29th Street Neighborhood Association has been documenting the increased presence of homeless people this summer.

"They are really screaming at people, they really are in your face and that is very uncomfortable, especially for women, young women, older women," Mario Messina said.

Messina was pleased to hear that the city planned to address the problem, after a weekend attack on a tourist, near Grand Central, by a homeless man.

Last Thursday, a man was slashed by a woman as he walked on 7th Ave.

One woman who panhandles in Chelsea told CBS2's Aiello that she always tries to be patient.

"For me just saying, 'any food or change would be appreciated,' and just waiting for anything that will come," she said.

She too, noticed an increase in aggressive begging.

"I've seen people actually touching other people to get their attention, to get their money, which is no good. That could be a street fight, lead to injury, because people don't want to be touched," she said.

Kramer asked for details of the mayor's homeless crackdown, and a timetable. She was told the plans were still being finalized, and that it will incorporate "more direct outreach" with homeless people living in the streets and that "mental health assistance will be a key to the program."

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