May 1, 2017
Citywide street homeless initiative transitions 748 homeless New Yorkers off the street in first year and enhances response protocols to improve street homeless outreach efforts
NEW YORK— Marking the one-year anniversary of HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams), the City’s comprehensive street homeless outreach program, the Department of Homeless Services today announced a series of enhancements to improve street homeless outreach efforts. Between implementation in March 2016 and February of this year, this new initiative has helped 748 homeless New Yorkers off the streets by partnering with existing homeless response and prevention programs to identify, engage, and transition homeless New Yorkers to appropriate services and, ultimately, permanent housing.
The program, which officially launched last April, was established to address the city’s street homeless population and remains the most comprehensive street homeless outreach initiative in any major U.S. city. It has doubled the number of street homeless outreach staff members working to connect individuals to the resources they need to obtain housing, and has expanded outreach services into indoor spaces, such as libraries and hospitals.
After analyzing first-year results, DHS will be adding additional enhancements to improve current proactive street homeless outreach efforts, including canvassing, immediate response, and case-by-case integration and management initiatives. The reforms include:
“It can take anywhere from one to hundreds of contacts to encourage people living on the street to come inside and accept services,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Every person has their own story and path to the streets, which is why our HOME-STAT program is so vital for this population. These new elements will help us to further expand our work and goal of transitioning more people off the street and into permanent housing.”
“Over the past year, thanks to the persistent and compassionate 24/7/365 work of our street homeless outreach teams, we have helped transition 748 street homeless New Yorkers indoors,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “The enhancements we’re making, along with our expanded partnerships with sister agencies, will allow us to further improve our programs and strategies to reach more street homeless New Yorkers, better understand the needs of clients, and ultimately move them off the streets.”
“These important enhancements are an outgrowth of a year of collaboration, learning, and continuous improvement,” said Mindy Tarlow, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations. “Our emphasis on data collection, multi-agency engagement, and public transparency will continue as HOME-STAT evolves.”
“HOME-STAT demonstrates the importance of city agencies and non-city partners collaborating on their efforts and breaking silos,” said Dr. Michael Jacobson, Senior Advisor to HOME-STAT and Director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance. “This allows the City to continuously enhance and better target the services it provides to individuals living on the street.”
MISSION AND CHALLENGES:
HOME-STAT is based on the premise that homelessness is a citywide problem that requires a citywide solution – a one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient as individuals living on the street face unique challenges and present with some of the most complex needs. Bringing street homeless New Yorkers in from unsheltered environments can take time, as these New Yorkers often struggle with many issues that highly-trained staff, including licensed social workers, must address in order to gain their trust such that the underlying issues that may have caused or contributed to their street homelessness are addressed. Many have fallen through available safety nets, and experience trauma and challenges, including mental health and substance use challenges that may make outreach more complicated.
HOME-STAT focuses on connecting with each individual living on the street to begin building the relationships and trust that will help nonprofit service providers bring them indoors. All street homeless outreach teams have licensed clinicians who work with clients on the streets. In addition to receiving on-going case management, people are assessed for immediate risk/crisis during each encounter. The teams also have psychiatrists who perform psychiatric evaluations on the streets and thereby help us understand and better meet the individual needs of each street homeless New Yorker. These clinicians and psychiatrists help our outreach teams connect with the clients who are difficult to engage, in many cases due to significant mental health challenges. Accepting outreach efforts, including services that will help homeless New Yorkers transition indoors from the streets, is voluntary. Our teams continue to reach-out to these New Yorkers to offer services and help them come indoors.
HOME-STAT also provides aftercare services, continuing to work with individuals who receive placements to ensure that they receive the support they need to remain in housing and off of the street.
REFORMS AND ENHANCEMENTS:
To build upon last year’s efforts and improve street homeless outreach, HOME-STAT is adding three new elements to the City’s street homeless response protocols:
Swarm Team Training:
To enhance the partnership between canvassers and outreach teams, DHS will redeploy canvassers through a more targeted Swarm initiative in which canvassing teams will now serve as community-engagement specialists citywide, focused on performing initial assessments of high-concentration areas across the five boroughs, enhancing communication and facilitating collaboration with area stakeholders in order to bring the most effective resources to bear on each unique situation involving street homeless New Yorkers:
Swarm Teams will be phased in this summer.
Multi-Agency Special Operations:
In taking a citywide, multi-agency, community-based approach to addressing street homelessness, DHS will engage with external partners to conduct strategic operations in areas with persistent homeless activity across the five boroughs, connecting a designated canvassing team with NYC Parks, Health + Hospitals, and public libraries for these special canvassing operations. This new special operations approach with other agencies will utilize each agency’s expertise and provide tailored intelligence to further support the outreach teams work to understand, engage, and support clients who are living on the street and/or who may be unknown to outreach teams as a result of using untraditional spaces for shelter:
DHS is launching a new three-pronged strategy to address panhandling, utilizing canvassers in an effort to responsibly and compassionately respond to and determine why people are engaging in this activity with the goal of developing and testing interventions for this population, as not all panhandlers are homeless:
NEW FACILITIES FOR STREET HOMELESS NEW YORKERS:
Drop-In Centers and Safe Haven programs are low-barrier services specifically targeted toward homeless individuals who may be resistant to accepting other services, including traditional shelters. Drop-in Centers provide baseline services with the goal of meeting immediate needs for individuals, such as showers, meals, and clothing. They also have on-site case management services and provide an emergency overnight option or a referral to a respite bed at local houses of worship. Transitional housing options, called Safe Havens, are geared toward chronic street homeless individuals. Safe Havens are low-barrier programs that only take referrals from street outreach teams and include overnight beds, and have physical and program characteristics more suitable for engaging service-resistant street homeless New Yorkers. Both Drop-In Centers and Safe Havens are equipped with on-site services and outreach staff who work closely with the clients to deepen those relationships, stabilize their lives, and encourage them to transition further off the streets, and ultimately into permanent housing. These facilities are often the first step towards bringing street homeless New Yorkers indoors.
In addition to redoubling and enhancing proactive street outreach efforts, DHS has opened or is opening more low-threshold facilities dedicated to serving street homeless New Yorkers. New sites include:
MORE OF WHAT WORKS:
All of these enhancements build upon first-year progress made under HOME-STAT, including an expanded by-name list, investments more than doubling the number of street homeless outreach workers, and more effective partnerships, resulting in more comprehensive reporting and engagement, all of which will continue:
Building a By-Name List to Improve Service Delivery
As part of the improved street homeless outreach efforts, the City is building a comprehensive by-name list of street homeless New Yorkers so they can receive coordinated care. As of February 2017, there were 1,737 currently street homeless individuals known to HOME-STAT and on the City’s comprehensive by-name list, and teams continue to engage and build relationships with these individuals to support their transition off the street. Of those on the HOME-STAT by-name list:
Additionally, there are 1,901 “prospective clients” or individuals known to street outreach teams that the teams are working to assess, including determining whether these individuals are homeless. All individuals on the street are not necessarily homeless, as they might be panhandling or spending time outside while they have a place to sleep at night. Outreach teams work every day to make regular contact with all 3,638 individuals on the street, including the known homeless New Yorkers and the prospective clients, to develop relationships that will help them make an assessment of the individual's living situation to inform services offered.
Redoubling Outreach During Extreme Weather
During extreme weather, the City redoubles outreach efforts, including:
One of the most effective measures for bringing people with mental health issues off the street is supportive housing, which offers comprehensive social services that help homeless New Yorkers get back on their feet, including mental health services.
“Helping homeless individuals get off the streets and into stable shelter and permanent housing is one of city government’s most difficult but important responsibilities,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Commissioner Banks is a genuine expert on the problems of poverty and homelessness, and while there’s a lot we still need to do, I commend the progress he and his team have made.”
"Addressing homelessness in our city requires an all-hands-on-deck, broad-based approach including outreach, housing, and support,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “The HOME-STAT program has become an integral part of this work, and continuing to build on and improve HOME-STAT will strengthen all our efforts going forward. I thank Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Homeless services for continuing to work toward solutions to the problem of homelessness."
“From opening new facilities for street homeless New Yorkers across the five boroughs to doubling the number of outreach workers engaging street homeless New Yorkers each and every day, this Administration has shown a steadfast commitment to addressing the challenge of homelessness,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “Building on last year’s already-unprecedented HOME-STAT initiative, DHS is further investing in proven innovations to the HOME-STAT program that will bring street homeless New Yorkers indoors and linked to the services necessary to thrive.”
“The troubling rise in homelessness is a matter that needs to be handled seriously and swiftly. In the past year, HOME STAT has helped the City get hundreds of homeless individuals off of the street and, with these proactive improvements to the HOME STAT program, I am optimistic we will see an even greater number of families and individuals safely homed in 2017,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “As we continue to work together to invest in resources and build more affordable housing, we will be able to achieve even greater success helping homeless New Yorkers receive the long-term housing they desperately need.
"HRA’s persistent work through its HOME-STAT teams is proof of the commitment the agency has to fulfill its mission of helping New York City neediest individuals," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Steven Banks for creating and implementing HOME-STAT as well as their laser-like focus to proactively helping individuals living on the street."
“I applaud the City for its efforts to significantly expand outreach to street homeless New Yorkers over the last year and gather data that will guide agencies in better serving these individuals. If New York City is going to make meaningful progress on our homelessness crisis we need to track the status of individuals living on the street with a real sense of urgency and develop a much deeper understanding of why they became homeless in the first place,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “I’m grateful to New York City’s homeless outreach workers, who make consistent efforts in reaching out to our homeless population to connect them to services and help get them off the streets.”
“This Administration is working every day to make progress bringing street homeless New Yorkers indoors—and these program changes should enhance that daily work,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile. “DHS has been a true partner, proactively addressing our constituents’ concerns by working collaboratively with this community and partner agencies to bring the most effective resources to bear on each unique situation involving street homeless New Yorkers. The compassion and the thoughtfulness with which they approach this work is key to building the trust required to help street homeless New Yorkers transition indoors.”
All New Yorkers can join the HOME-STAT effort by contacting 3-1-1 via phone or mobile app and requesting outreach assistance for individuals they believe may be homeless and in need of help.