City expands its ‘Outreach’ to homeless people living on the streets

New York, Manhattan downtown. Homeless man holding a cardboard sign, begging
Photo via Getty Images

With thousands of New Yorkers living on the streets or in the subways every day, the city is expanding its efforts to provide them with the help they need.

The de Blasio administration announced Thursday the launch of Outreach NYC, which will mobilize 18,000 employees from five city agencies to report unsheltered homeless individuals and connect them to various assistance programs. 

The Fire Department will play the biggest role, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, as 15,000 firefighters, paramedics and EMTs are being trained for the observe and report program. The other workers hail from the city’s Departments of Sanitation, Parks, Buildings and Health and Mental Hygiene.

These trained employees will report unsheltered homeless individuals via the 311 app to a Joint Command Center operated by the NYPD and the Department of Homeless Services. Center staff will then assess each case and provide appropriate resources, while also tracking broader homeless trends across the city and deploying relief through the Department of Social Services.

Much of these relief resources will be delivered through HOME-STAT teams of clinicians, psychiatrists, social workers and other experts. Most of these teams, according to the city, regularly engage with unsheltered residents and know them by name.

De Blasio added that the city will hire another 110 employees to focus solely on the outreach effort. The Outreach NYC overall goal is to provide as many unsheltered homeless individuals with a path off the streets and into “transitional and permanent settings.”

“We cannot attempt to address this issue in a vacuum,” de Blasio said of Outreach NYC. “It’s time we all wear one uniform. Outreach NYC is our all-hands-on-deck approach to bring even more people in off the streets.”

The outreach program aims to address the most challenging cases of unsheltered homeless, including mental health and substance abuse.

Since April 2016, the city has helped more than 2,200 individuals transition into a life away from street homelessness. The city has also, in that span of time, increased its investment in street homeless programs from $45 million in 2013 to $140 million today.

De Blasio cautioned, however, that the services offered by outreach programs are voluntary; unsheltered individuals cannot be involuntarily taken off the streets unless they’re deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others.