Mayor Bill de Blasio hopped between television and radio stations Friday to promote his ambitious new plan to tackle street homelessness in the city. Police Commissioner William Bratton is also speaking out, promoting some different homeless strategies of his own. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is preparing to dispatch hundreds of outreach workers to help homeless people living on the streets. He's creating a special canvas unit that will check each and every block of Manhattan from Canal Street to 145th Street every single day for homeless men and women in need.
"The street problem is very real," de Blasio said. "And it has caused a lot of concern among New Yorkers. We have to address it because people care about it legitimately, but we also have to address it because we have 3- or 4,000 people who never should have been on the street to begin with."
His police commissioner, though, is eyeing other approaches. William Bratton says while he thinks the mayor's homeless plan will make a difference, he wants to enact new laws to give police more power to address activities like panhandling.
Right now, people are prohibited from begging within 10 feet of an ATM machine, but only those at banks. The commissioner says he wants to broaden that.
"If you can do, limit it within 10 feet of a bank ATM, why not be able to limit it within 10 feet of any ATM?" Bratton said. "So there's an example of a fresh and creative look at the different issues we are facing."
Bratton says he will be proposing a number of legislative initiatives in the new year designed to address the city's homeless problem.
At a news conference on Friday, he talked up another idea: creating drop-in homeless centers where people living on the street could congregate.
"That was my strong recommendation to the mayor," Bratton said "If there were places where they could go during the day, in out of the weather, where there were also services. Much in the same as we try to do with them in the street, we could be approaching them, but at least they would be off the street."
The point person at City Hall for homeless services says the administration should look at the role drop-in centers can play in helping people get off the street and into shelters.