Posted on September 27, 2018
Checking in on NYC’s ambitious homeless shelter overhaul, 18 months later
“No one wants a shelter on their block, but if we have to have one, I think this was the best-case scenario."
— Rachel Holliday Smith (@rachelholliday) September 26, 2018
The Bergen Street shelter was one of the first announced under “Turning the Tide on Homelessness,” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious, five-year plan to revamp the way New York’s shelter system operates. With a long-term goal of reducing the homeless population by 2,500 people (or about four percent of the then-total of 60,000), the plan also aims to end the use of commercial hotels for shelter; shutter all of the city’s shelter units in privately-owned, often far-flung apartments called cluster sites; and replace them with 90 new, purpose-built shelters with on-site supportive services.
Both critics and advocates of the plan agree Turning the Tide isn’t a solution to the true driver of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing. Mo George, of the homeless-led advocacy group Picture the Homeless, says that until the mayor makes a serious pledge to create a sufficient number of units for formerly homeless households, there will be no real progress.
While George says the mayor’s homeless plan is doing some good, his housing plan doesn’t do nearly enough for those who need the most help finding a home. At Picture the Homeless, members are not the drug-addicted stereotype portrayed in the media, she notes; they’re “working women of color with kids who can no longer afford rent in this city.”
“That is an affordability crisis. That is not a housing crisis,” George says. “If the mayor really wants to change, really wants to turn the tide, he needs to look at what programs … are out there to turn our housing into affordable housing.”