NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday revealed what he considered to be one of his biggest failures of 2018: the city’s growing homeless problem.
CBS2 got a first-hand look at the struggle of a pair of brothers too scared to seek shelter, instead opting to live in a makeshift home.
A large plastic structure stands where 57th Street meets the West Side Highway in Manhattan. As it turns out, it’s the ramshackle home of Paul Buerrero and his twin brother, Peter.
They’ve been living there since Thanksgiving. Before that they were regularly on the move, carrying layers of plastic covering and several carpets replete with bedding and clothes throughout the city for two years.
“It’s the best spot right now,” said Paul of their current arrangement.
The unemployed, disabled Mexican on food stamps says he feels more at ease than at any shelter he’s ever lived. At least on the west side, there’s less of a risk of getting robbed or injured.
“We’re not gonna stay in no shelter,” said Paul.
The mayor admitted on WNYC Radio one of his biggest failures of 2018 has been the problem felt by Paul and tens of thousands of other New Yorkers.
“One of the things I want to do in 2019 is figure out how we can more aggressively, still, reduce homelessness,” de Blasio said. “I think we’ve done some really important things in terms of reducing street homelessness, but we’ve got a lot more to do and we’ve got to get the shelter population down.”
What’s clear is that something has to be done to make sure sleeping in plastic and other encampments across the city isn’t preferable to staying in a shelter. Homeless New Yorkers have asked for better screening at shelters as well as more separate rooms.
De Blasio has long touted a plan to open 90 new homeless shelters throughout the five boroughs over the next four to five years, but that does nothing to relieve the immediate problem that will help people like Paul and his brother find a better and safer place to sleep.