By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday he is launching a sweeping initiative to combat the persistent problem of homelessness in New York City, ordering teams to do a daily canvass of every block of an 8-mile stretch in Manhattan to reach out to those living on the street.
The new program, announced at a high-profile speech to a major New York business group, is the latest in a series of moves by City Hall meant to show that it is urgently combatting the homelessness crisis after taking months of criticism that it was slow to address the problem.
The new Home-Stat program will deploy teams from the city’s Department of Homeless Services to walk every block from Canal Street to 145th Street, a prime stretch of Manhattan where most of the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 street homeless are found. They will be tasked with engaging the homeless to offer services and urge them to seek shelter.
“The truth is that no city in this nation has cracked the code and figured out how to solve this crisis,” the mayor said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York. “But Home-Stat will be the most comprehensive street homelessness outreach effort ever deployed in a major American city.”
De Blasio has made clear he believes the problem predates him and says that a shrinking amount of affordable housing is largely to blame for the rise in homelessness. Beyond those on the street, another 58,000 people live in the city’s shelters, near a record-high.