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De Blasio Administration's Treatment of Homeless in Storm Represents Break from Bloomberg Policy

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TWC News: De Blasio Administration's Treatment of Homeless in Storm Represents Break from Bloomberg Policy
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One aspect of the de Blasio administration's storm response reflected a sharp break from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policy: his treatment of the homeless. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

As has long been the case during severe winter weather, the city on Thursday activated "Code Blue," meaning all homeless drop-in centers are open 24 hours, offering hot meals and showers, and single adults can access any homeless shelter, bypassing the intake process that normally requires that they first come to a Manhattan intake center.

This time, though, shelter restrictions were also eased for homeless families, something advocates say was a problem under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"If you had families with vulnerable children, they were sometimes turned away on bitterly cold nights like this, so that's very troubling," said Mary Brosnahan of the Coalition for the Homeless. "And it's great that immediately, Bill de Blasio took action and did something quickly to signal a sea change in homeless policy."

Also during Code Blue, the city can bring the homeless into shelters even when they're unwilling.

If you see someone on the street who may be in need of assistance, city officials encourage you to call 311 and ask for the mobile outreach response team. Those teams, which search city streets for homeless individuals who may be at risk, are doubled in number during Code Blue conditions.

"Our Department of Homeless Services is again out in full force," de Blasio said.

That's despite the fact that de Blasio's appointee as homeless services commissioner, Gilbert Taylor, introduced on Tuesday, doesn't take over until January 13.

In any case, during the overnight hours Thursday, outreach teams responded to 58 individuals, with 13 of them placed in homeless facilities. Altogether, the city fielded 76 calls.

The sheer volume, though, meant that help didn't always come quickly. After encountering Eric James on East 28th Street, NY1 called 311 and spent about half an hour on hold. NY1 finally made a report, but about 45 minutes later, James decided he could no longer wait.

"It's too cold. I can't take it no more," he said. "It's either my hands are freezing and hurting, or my feet hurting."

So he left, in search of a restaurant or any other warm place that would let him in.

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