New York City’s Homeless Population Continues to Grow on de Blasio’s Watch

by Austin Yack

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise to curb homelessness across New York City has been a failure. When de Blasio entered office in 2014, there were 50,689 people sleeping in homeless shelters. But during his first year in office, the count increased by 15 percent, and now, less than two years later, there are nearly 60,000 people — that’s including 23,600 children.

Rather than admit that the city’s homelessness-prevention programs have failed to reverse this upward trend, the de Blasio administration opted to make excuses based on hypotheticals: If the programs weren’t implemented, city officials told the Wall Street Journal, there would have been 7,000 more people in homeless shelters.. By this metric, the 18 percent increase in homelessness under de Blasio’s watch somehow represents the success of the administration’s policies.

City officials still blame de Blasio’s predecessors for today’s crisis. “My frustration is that the kinds of common sense investments that we’ve made in prevention and rental assistance were not made 20 years ago when this trajectory began,” Steve Banks, New York City’s Human Resources Administration commissioner, said. New York City’s homelessness problem may have begun 20 years ago, but de Blasio’s comprehensive plan has done nothing but throw money at the problem, not fix it.

The annual homelessness budget is now $1.7 billion, and funds are being doled out in ways that, may just be encouraging homelessness. The city now pays for 4,000 motel rooms to house those in need, each room with an average cost of $161 per night (some cost up to $300 per night). De Blasio has substantially expanded this program; in January 2015, only 1,000 rooms were used for this purpose, which is a 400 percent increase in less than two years. If the homeless are given such desirable accommodations, there is little motivation for them to seek shelter independently — the root of the problem will remain as more and more people seek government-funded shelter.

The de Blasio administration also announced a $3 billion plan in November 2015 to fight homelessness by building 15,000 housing units, all with social services, over the course of 15 years.

De Blasio may have claimed that under his administration “we will never go back to those bad old days,” but it seems that as his days in office come and go, New York City’s homeless crisis has gone from bad to worse.

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