The city is rolling out a new policy to deal with the record-high homeless population that will include a daily canvas of every block from Canal Street to 145th Street. It will also be assigning case mangers for each person.
At the Bowery Mission, Imran Prentic, 30, lined up recently for clothing and a shower. He’s been homeless for nearly four years and usually camps in parks, subway stations and under bridges. He’s exactly the kind of person the city will be targeting, which he said is a good thing. “We need as much help as we can get, it’s cold. We need more people not to give up but try to help themselves,” he said.
He’s hoping to secure a spot at the Bowery Mission, where Jorge Colon, 35, is already in a program. The mission provides a place to sleep and life-skills training. Colon had lost his job, was addicted to drugs, and living in an abandoned building in Camden, N.J., when he decided to come to New York to get clean. He’s been homeless for six months and has stayed in four city shelters. “They all had drugs, and a lot of fights, they wasn’t that good,” he said.
He’s wary of a city program that would place people in one of these shelters. He’s also concerned about Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s comments that he’ll seek to make it easier to ticket the homeless for minor crimes, like panhandling near an ATM machine.
“It’s just going to destroy them. They already on the edge,” he said. “Now you want to push them over the edge, give them tickets they cannot pay. Just wasted paper, really.”
The mayor is also proposing to create a special unit within the NYPD that’s specially-trained to deal with the mental health issues of the homeless. But the centerpiece of his campaign will be a daily survey of homeless hotspots on the streets to provide real-time information, which the city can use to send resources.
James Winans, the chief development officers at the Bowery Mission, said when his shelter has conducted similar outreach they were able to get one in 10 people off the streets. “We consider that a success,” he said. “This is a very difficult population to engage with to work with, so the city has it’s work cut out for it as does the Bowery Mission.”
The mayor has also vowed to get rid of homeless encampments. One encampment is in Washington Square Park, where a 30-year old Bostonian who calls himself Joe Grimy has been camping for weeks. The NYPD recently kicked him and half a dozen guys out of the park at night. “They should give us an area that’s far enough away from the areas that bothers them for us to be a,t and that we should be allowed to have a tent city where they don’t bother us,” he said.
He said he’ll continue camping in the city wherever he can find a spot.
“They obviously don’t want us here, which means that a whole bunch of people that don’t want to see there’s a homeless problem in New York City are seeing it. That’s a good thing, it means they have to step up their game.”
With nearly 58,000 homeless people in the city and 3,000-4,000 street homeless, the mayor said reducing these numbers is his administration’s top priority.