NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There are renewed calls for City Hall to explain its homeless outreach program, and the man in charge of it all was in the hot seat in front of the City Council today.

Overnight, officers clear the train cars, and outreach teams offer to take the chronically homeless to a shelter, in hopes to link them to more services. Others are taken to the hospital. But what happens to them?

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“Who is tracking them?” said Councilmember Stephen Levin.

“Some of these individuals are very difficult to get information about them,” said Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks.


“Once they’re in the hospital, who is tracking their whereabouts?” Levin asked.

“We’ll keep focusing on individuals who we’re bringing into shelter,” Banks said.

It’s still unclear if any follow-up is provided, despite being added in the city’s count that touts the program as a success.

So far, of the hundreds of homeless the city has been in contact with, fewer than 15% remain connected to the system. Pictures from the New York Post and The City showing overcrowding at the 30th Street men’s shelter may explain why.

“Before the pandemic the congregant shelters were a problem. Now during it a glaring problem,” said Councilmember Robert Holden.

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More than 650 people have contracted COVID-19 in the shelter system. Nearly 80 have died, reported CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

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Thousands of single adults have been moved from shelters to commercial hotels. Now some are going straight from the subways to a hotel, bypassing traditional shelters altogether, a move homeless advocates say should be far more widespread.

“We’re going to continue to move people out of our congregant shelters each week to continue to promote social distancing and harm reduction,” Banks said.

The weather is getting warmer and the homeless know riding the subway all night is not an option.

“Now they’re leaving the train stations and working their way into our parks and we don’t see the same enforcement,” said Councilmember Mark Gjonaj.

“We have 24/7 outreach throughout the city,” Banks said.

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The commissioner says more contact is being made with the homeless than ever before. Each time, the city calls it a win, even if so many eventually walk away from getting help.