Rapid-response teams will hit “every single block” in most of Manhattan, searching for homeless people and responding to public complaints within an hour, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
Inviting a handful of the “NYC Home Stat Homeless Outreach” workers clad in fluorescent-colored uniforms to the front of a business leaders breakfast, de Blasio said the teams would focus on the area of Canal Street to 145th Street in Manhattan and parts of the other boroughs. He said the teams would begin immediately.
“We’re going to go at this problem with everything we got,” de Blasio told the breakfast meeting of the Association for a Better New York, held at the Grand Hyatt hotel.
With the help of the police where necessary, the teams of social-services workers will seek to measure the extent of the problem, offer services and arrest lawbreakers.
There are currently 175 of the social services workers, and there will be 312 by March, according to the mayor’s office.
After the breakfast, Police Commissioner William Bratton said that in the new year he would be proposing legislation to address court-imposed restrictions on the NYPD’s ability to move along or arrest homeless people. As an example, he cited an existing law barring begging within a certain distance of a bank ATM. He said would expand that prohibition to any ATM, such as one at a bodega.
The city’s record-setting number of homeless people has become a political liability for de Blasio. Excluding the more than 3,000 people who live on the street, the shelter population peaked this year at about 59,000, an increase from about 53,000 two years ago, when de Blasio was sworn in. It is now more than 57,000, mayoral spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh said.
On Tuesday, De Blasio’s chief of homeless services, Gil Taylor, abruptly announced his resignation.