NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city has unveiled its latest tool to identify and help the homeless. It’s part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to end street homelessness within five years. New Yorkers, however, remain skeptical.
You’ve seen and experienced it, thousands of homeless, an estimated 4,000 every single day, on the subways and the streets. Some are people who think living in the raw is better than a city shelter.
Now the city says it sees a solution, a joint command center in a tiny room in lower Manhattan manned by cops and outreach workers.
On Thursday, de Blasio toured the center, which includes banks of cameras and maps that allow officials to monitor street conditions and respond. If someone reports the location of a homeless person, outreach workers go there to try to convince the person to accept shelter.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer demanded answers from Mayor de Blasio, showing him pictures of the very things New Yorkers witness every day.
“What New Yorkers want to know is when will they see results? When will they not see these pictures, which are clearly disturbing?” Kramer asked.
“Every single month, every single year from this point on you’re going to see fewer and fewer people on the streets,” de Blasio responded.
The program is based on the belief that repeated contact with cops and outreach workers will eventually convince a homeless person to accept the city’s offer of shelter.
“Will it work the first time? Every time? No. Sometimes it’s gonna take a lot of effort,” the mayor said.
The city said it has convinced some 2,400 people to accept shelter over the last three years.
“Can you appreciate that New Yorkers feel somewhat cynical about the possibility of success?” Kramer asked.
“New Yorkers, I believe, we are cynical in a good way. We want proof and I don’t blame anyone who wants to see proof,” the mayor said.
Can de Blasio keep his promise to end street homelessness in five years? The public doesn’t seem to think so.
“Do I believe him? Probably not,” one person said.
“It’s quite a task. I don’t know how you go about it,” Suzanne Rust of Harlem added.
“I don’t believe it. There’s too many homeless people on the street, and five years? I mean, what has he done in the past couple years as mayor of he city? I haven’t seen any change,” added Jay Kaplan of the Upper East Side.
Officials had no information about how many people have agreed to go to shelters since the program started operation about six weeks ago. The city sent outreach workers and cops on eight cases Monday, 10 on Tuesday, and 13 on Wednesday.