In response to a public outcry over homelessness, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to double down on the city's outreach efforts. He called the new program HomeStat. On Tuesday, de Blasio said that program was now operational. Our Courtney Gross has the story.
James Branch carries all of this stuff around with him. He has been homeless for years, hanging out in Tompkins Square Park, refusing to go into a shelter.
"The shelter system is a big problem," Branch said.
But he is part of the homeless population the de Blasio administration is now targeting.
"Folks who literally spend 24 hours on the streets that's a group of people who need a very special kind of help and a very focused kind of help," the mayor said.
Help he is calling HomeStat. First unveiled in December, on Tuesday, some three months later, hizzoner said the program is fully operational.
That means some 300 outreach workers are combing the streets from Canal Street to 145th Street conducting outreach to the street homeless population, offering them services and trying to convince them to come in to shelter on a daily basis.
It includes people like Branch, who watched from afar as the mayor made his announcement.
"I've been back here for about a month, and it wasn't until two or three days ago that some people started coming up and started talking to me," Branch said.
Perhaps, that will change. The public can even monitor where these workers are through this new web portal. 311 homelessness calls are also put on the map.
"It's finite," de Blasio said. "It's reachable. The goal is literally to identify every single person."
City officials say there is no reliable estimate for how many people are sleeping on the street or perhaps in a park every night. Some have put that number at about 4,000.
The city is now committed to holding four annual surveys to try to get a better grasp of how many street homeless there actually are. In the past, it is only done one, potentially counting Branch as one of thousands.
"Now if he has the funding to do everything and he tries to get in touch with everybody that is an open issue that is going to take a lot of initiative," Branch said.
It's something the mayor says he has.