Marking One-Year Anniversary of Home-Stat, City Enhances Street Homeless Outreach Efforts

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:

  1. The creation and implementation of “Swarm Teams” to help with intensive canvassing efforts across the five boroughs;
  2. Intensified citywide multi-agency collaboration with a community-based approach to assisting more people to move from the street; and
  3. Performing a comprehensive analysis of panhandling to inform the development of new panhandling interventions.

“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 comprised of six canvassers who will be deployed during the early morning and mid-afternoon hours for a two-week rotation in areas across the five boroughs identified by (1) DHS Street Homelessness Solutions and nonprofit service providers’ outreach teams; (2) partner agencies; (3) community stakeholders, including residents, community members, business owners, and elected officials as having a high concentration of street homelessness. Swarm Teams will be trained to triage various situations by observing and engaging clients with the goal of distributing information and providing baseline services (i.e. information about a Drop-In Center, food pantry locations, and other homeless resources), and to gather in-depth intelligence that will guide next steps on how to best serve the people present in each location.
  • These two-week neighborhood assessments of street homelessness by Swarm Teams will help outreach workers more effectively engage people living on the street and provide community stakeholders with regular information on findings, methodology, progress, and successes.
  • Swarm Teams will prepare a summary report on each assessed area for the DHS’ Street Homelessness Solutions team, as well as community stakeholders, including a full analysis of each area canvassed, highlighting engagement efforts between the Swarm Teams, outreach workers, and street homeless New Yorkers in various neighborhoods, including progress and challenges. These reports will inform community case conferences wherein all stakeholders will jointly determine the next, most effective steps for addressing street homelessness in the area on a case-by-case basis.

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:

  • Health + Hospitals & Libraries: Enhanced partnerships with 35 public library branches and nine hospitals across the city enable outreach staff to provide services to street homeless individuals who sometimes use these locations and were thus previously out of view of street outreach workers. Working with on-site staff, this operation will occur once per week on alternate Mondays at designated hospitals and library branches that have a high presence of homeless clients.
  • NYC Parks: Similarly, working collaboratively with NYC Parks enables outreach staff to reach and engage those street homeless individuals in City parks. Joint operations with NYC Parks will occur once per week on Wednesdays in parks across the five boroughs that will be pre-identified with the help of a designated DHS Manager and the Parks Department. Canvassers will be escorted by NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol as they complete the canvassing of the designated park, with the goal of increasing client engagement, developing an enforcement presence to monitor and regulate areas where homelessness may be coupled with illegal activity, and further encouraging clients to accept resources and, ultimately, placement indoors.

Panhandler Interventions:

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:

  • Data Collection: An initiative in Manhattan is underway, expected to be completed by this summer, with the goal of obtaining an estimate of the number of panhandlers borough-wide. High-density areas will be established using canvasser data, information provided by community stakeholders, including local elected officials, business owners and BIDs, and additional information from the NYPD.
  • Client Engagement: Based on an analysis of the data, DHS will develop plans for conducting targeted joint operations with the NYPD to ensure safety and to discourage continued panhandler activity.
  • Interventions: A list of general community resources will be developed for this population. These services may include, housing assistance, substance use programs, food pantries, pet resources, counseling, shelter, and other services as needed. Further interventions will be implemented once data collection and analysis are complete.

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:

  • Combination Safe Haven / Drop-In Center on Atlantic Avenue in Ozone Park, Queens, which began seeing clients last week.
    • Provider: Breaking Ground
    • Capacity: 75 drop-in clients, 50 safe haven beds
  • Safe Haven on 105th Street in Upper West Side, Manhattan, which opened last week
    • Provider: Urban Pathways
    • Capacity: 36 safe haven beds
  • Drop-In Center on 14th Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, which will open later this year
    • Provider: CUCS
    • Capacity: 70 drop-in clients, 40 safe haven beds
  • Expansion of Safe Haven in Midwood, Brooklyn to 51 beds by end of May
    • Provider: Breaking Ground
    • Capacity: 51 safe haven beds

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:

  • Increasing the number of street outreach workers from 191 to 387—a 103-percent increase. These workers do the hard work of talking to street homeless individuals and gaining their trust.
  • Expanding case management services to provide this help to anyone living on the street, rather than first requiring individuals to be homeless for a certain number of months to be eligible for these critical services.
  • Increasing the tools outreach workers need to bring homeless individuals off the streets, including over 350 transitional beds already opened and another 400 in process, for a new total of more than 1,500 transitional beds citywide.
  • Using the daily canvassing of key areas and the most extensive quarterly count in the country to help make sure as many people on the street as possible are identified and offered services.
  • Publishing daily, weekly, and monthly dashboards online for the public, alongside other data quality and transparency measures.

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:

  • 51 percent (1,737) were on the street or in similar settings
  • 37 percent were in transitional housing, such as Safe Havens.
  • 12 percent were in permanent housing while continuing to receive community support services.

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.

Interagency Collaboration

  • Creating continuity for the homeless individuals on the streets and public accountability for the City agencies that serve them through a new citywide case-management and case-conferencing model.
  • Began routine collaboration among commissioners from various agencies on a quarterly basis—ranging from NYC Health + Hospitals and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to the Department of Corrections and the Fire Department—to troubleshoot and improve street homelessness outreach.
  • Partnership between DHS and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) more than quintupled the number of outreach staff in the subways, from 20 to 111, with outreach teams from the service provider BRC canvassing the subway system 24 hours per day, every day.
  • Increased the NYPD Crisis Outreach and Support Unit, which focuses on assisting homeless individuals both directly and in partnership with outreach workers and other City agencies, from 70 to 86 personnel.

Redoubling Outreach During Extreme Weather

During extreme weather, the City redoubles outreach efforts, including:

  • Doubling the number of vehicles and staff conducting outreach in all five boroughs.
  • Working closely with emergency medical services and other City agencies (NYPD, FDNY, Parks) to supplement DHS outreach team efforts.
  • Checking on vulnerable clients once every two hours during a Code Blue.
  • Bringing clients who agree to come inside to any shelter, Safe Haven, drop-in center, or hospital emergency room, as appropriate.

Supportive Housing

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.

  • The first 550 of the 15,000 units the Mayor has committed to create will be coming online this year.

“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.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958