SOUTH BRONX — The Human Resources Administration will have a joint management structure with the Department of Homeless Services following a review of how the city delivers services to the homeless, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.
Both agencies will report to current HRA head Steven Banks who will take the new title of Commissioner of Social Services. The move will streamline both agencies and save the city $38 million which will be plowed back into providing services, city officials said.
The change, along with dozens others, comes after the city completed a 90-day review of how it delivers homeless services after the de Blasio administration came under fire for a sharp rise in homelessness.
De Blasio has faced scrutiny from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others for the increase in the number of homeless in the city's shelters. City residents have also complained of seeing more street homeless during de Blasio's first two years in office.
"We undertook this 90-day review with a goal of making all of the agencies that address homelessness as effective as possible," de Blasio said at BronxWorks, a social services agency. "This was guided by a fundamental truth — every New Yorker deserves a home – a brick-and-mortar place, a place they know they can depend on."
Other changes include the implementation of an NYPD plan to upgrade security at all shelters and having all shelter security officers trained by the NYPD, increasing action against landlords who don't want to accept tenants receiving government rental assistance and focusing DHS on better managing the non-profit shelter providers to ensure they are meeting city codes and requirements.
Banks thanked de Blasio for having confidence in his ability to run the new agency and said it has been two decades since the city seriously examined its delivery of homeless services. Banks says the mayor urged him to focus on delivery of services to the clients.
"Are they timely and are they effective? And that was the guiding principle when looking at our delivery of homeless services from the client’s perspective — are services timely and effective?" Banks said.
Prevention will also be a big part of the effort. The city is consolidating three critical rental assistance programs. Homeless prevention programs at HRA and DHS will now be merged. Five hundred of the 15,000 supportive housing units the mayor pledged to build will be online by June 2017.
Since 2014, the city has been able to help 32,000 people leave shelters to find permanent housing. The city previously reported that figure as more than 50,000 people but the number was revised to exclude people who simply dropped out of the system after the 90 day review to provide a more honest figure.
If the city had not intervened, with its efforts including rental assistance and legal services, there would be 71,000 people in shelter now as opposed to the 58,000 that are currently there now, officials said.
"First and foremost, preventing homelessness – this is something I believe in going back to the years I spent in the City Council," de Blasio said. "This is what I advocated for the most – stopping people from becoming homeless while we can. That is the smartest strategy and we’re going to do a lot more on that front."