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Mayor De Blasio Unveils Plans To Combat City Homelessness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- One of the biggest problem the mayor has to deal with is the homeless problem in the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he plans to "turn the tide" on homelessness with a new borough-based plan.

As CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer reports, this is the second time he's changed direction on the issue.

With the homeless population skyrocketing in the streets, subways, and overcrowded shelters and commercial hotels, de Blasio admits even with his latest plan it will take a very long time and a lot of hard work to solve the problem.

"We all feel the problem of homelessness -- it's one of those intense, visceral human realities that we experience in the city," de Blasio said during a speech Tuesday afternoon. "New Yorkers all over the five boroughs feel it... it shouldn't be this way."

The mayor, who saw the city's homeless population go from 51,000 to more than 60,000 on his watch said it was a situation decades in the making.

"That has to stop," de Blasio said. "Somehow we've been moving in the wrong direction for three and a half decades."


The mayor said the city will reduce homelessness. He believes progress will be slow, but he hopes it will be steady.

"We'll be fighting this war for a long time," de Blasio said. "I believe we can do better, I do believe we can disrupt the status quo and I know the city has the ability to reach more people."

Even with his new plan, he said he only expects the homeless population to decrease by 2,500 in four years.

"It doesn't take us to nirvana by any stretch of the imagination," he said, "it's a blood and guts strategy."

Homelessness is an issue that has plagued de Blasio since he took office, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported. The administration was recently criticized for a policy of placing homeless families in hotels in Manhattan and other boroughs at the cost of $400,000 a day.

De Blasio said the city plans to eliminate the use of cluster apartments by the end of 2021 and hotels by the end of 2023.

The sites will be replaced with 90 new homeless shelters that will be built across the five boroughs. The city also plans to expand 30 existing shelters.

In order to build the new shelters, the mayor will need the cooperation of non-profit groups -- some of which are reluctant because they have not been paid for past services. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the president of WIN, one of the largest not-for-profit providers.

"We stand ready, WIN and other non-profits, to support the mayor, run these shelters, open them, but we can't do it without being paid the money we are already owed," she told CBS2.

Before the announcement, the New York Times reported the mayor will likely be met with stiff opposition from neighborhoods that don't want the shelters. A bitter fight in Maspeth, Queens forced a city to abandon plans to convert a hotel into a homeless shelter.

The new strategy will also "reduce the current number of shelter sites by 45 percent and keep homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and supports that they need," according to a press release.

There was no mention in the mayor's 114 page proposal of how he plans to pay for everything. A spokesman later said it would add $300 million to the capital plan to expand 30 current shelters. It's unclear how the 90 new shelters will be paid for.

Meanwhile Tuesday, a new Quinnipiac University poll found Mayor de Blasio with his best job approval rating in a year.
A total of 50 percent of voters gave the thumbs up and 42 percent gave him thumbs down.

The mayor also narrowly won out on the question of whether he should be reelected, 47 percent to 44 percent.


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