Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Plan That Will End Long-Term Street Homelessness in New York City

December 17, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Everybody, I am so moved by the Cardinal's words. I have to tell you that he from the beginning has spoken to the people of this city about the humanity of those who sadly end up on the streets, as you said, can end up on the streets for a very long time. I always use a phrase, there but for the grace of God go we. And I believe I'm preaching to the choir when I say that. But I want to tell you, everyone, Cardinal Dolan has made this very personal and what he said to the people of this city and to this whole nation, because you've talked about very openly your own response to seeing people on the street and realizing that we all have to resist that sadly, practical impulse to just walk by and to not see the full humanity in a person. And you Cardinal had been so honest and it's so powerful in saying, wait, we all have to stop. That individual is a child of God. That individual has a mother and father. Many of them even have children of their own. Some of those children are trying to find them because that family is falling apart. These are human beings. They're just like all of us and they deserve our love and our compassion.

And that would be true any day of the year. But in this season where so many faiths come together in celebration and renewal, this is the time to go farther than we ever imagined possible. That's what we're talking about today. That's what we are announcing today. We are going to do something that has never been done in this city or any city because it's time. It's time to go to a place we've never been to help our brothers and sisters.

Cardinal Dolan, when I spoke to you and to all the members of CORL – we're going to hear from some of the other prominent leaders – but I want to thank Cardinal Dolan. I want to thank Reverend Sharpton. I want to thank everyone who's a part of CORL because you play a crucial role in the city. I always say in many other places in this world when there is conflict and strife, sadly religious leaders feel that they are on different sides of a divide, but in New York City, look around you. Look at all the faiths represented here in common cause. When there's conflict and strife, they don't separate. They come together. Let's thank all of these leaders.


And Cardinal when I reached out to you and I said, I'm not just telling you about an important idea. I'm not just asking for CORL to be supportive, I'm asking for CORL to be a partner. I'm asking for the leaders of these faith communities to actually open Safe Havens in their houses of worship and build a movement for change in this city. You instantly said yes and your colleagues instantly said yes. So we are honored to make this announcement today. Yes. On behalf of 8.6 million New Yorkers – yes, on behalf of the City of New York, but with the full partnership and participation of CORL – thank you. Thank you so much.


Reverend Sharpton, thank you for invoking that difference between the physical city, the skyscrapers, the famous landmarks, and the people. I've heard you speak about this many times. Some of our people are hurting and what Reverend Sharpton said, bears witness that we can't be a whole city if some of our brothers and sisters are left out in the cold. It is a moral calling to get this right. And yes, our faith leaders have to remind us sometimes that we need to go farther.

That's what we're here to talk about today and we are at Judson for a reason. This is a place that is synonymous with social justice. This is a place as synonymous with people not accepting that things have to be the way they are even if we know they're wrong. Reverend Schaper and everyone here at Judson, thank you for being consciences for this city for a long, long time, for 20 mayoral administrations I heard. Let's thank them


I want to start by asking everyone to think for a moment. Think deeply. When I say to you at this holiday season, people will be gathering together. You'll be traveling in one way or another. You'll be going home. Everyone pause for a moment. Just visualize in your mind what it means to come home. Everyone, take a moment. Think about what it means to you to come home. That picture in your mind. I imagine for so many of you it meant being with loved ones, it meant being welcomed, being embraced someplace you feel comfortable and safe and warm. Is that right? Is that what you felt? Raise your hand if you felt something like that. That's what it means to go home. Think about the fact that there are thousands of people on the streets of this city who will not have that feeling this holiday season. That what we all believe is one of the most special moments of the year for so many exemplifies that feeling of belonging, that there are still too many who will not have that feeling. And I hasten to add to everyone here who works hard nonetheless to try and support and embrace folks who are homeless during the holidays. You do everything. Try and give them some of that feeling and that counts for so, so much. But there's not a one of us who mistakes that charity, that warmth, that support for the actual reality of having a home.

No one knows that better than our outreach workers. I'm going to be referring to you in a few moments because what you are doing is essential to the plan we're announcing today. Our outreach workers who go out day after day to connect with folks who have fallen on hard times –they give some of that love. They give some of that hope, but they know better than anyone, it's not the same as a home.

Every one of us, every one of us wants that feeling in our lives and needs it and deserves it. So why does this reality exist? Because our society now for decades has failed. It's failed over the years. Many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands – in fact, if you look nationwide, millions of Americans at one point or another were homeless. Why? Because we have a society still riven by inequality. A society that doesn't, help working people get their fair share; a society with a broken health care system; a society that doesn't provide mental health to people who need it. That's what's been happening.

We have to work on all of those problems because it was never meant to be this way, was it? Now ask a simple question. It was never meant to be this way, was it?

Audience: No.

Mayor: This is not what should be happening in the greatest city in the world and in the United States of America, the greatest nation in the world. This should not be happening, but we're going to have to do things very, very differently.

Part of the ambition of this plan is that it will require a deep connection to our fellow human beings. Back to the Cardinal's point, we can't bring people home if we don't understand their humanity and respect their humanity. If anyone walks by someone homeless and just feels pity or inconvenience or anger, but doesn't see the humanity of that person, we can't solve the problem. This is all about reaching people and connecting with them deeply. It has not happened on the scale it needs to. It has not happened with the clarity of purpose and the intensity. It hasn't happened in this city. It hasn't happened in any city. It hasn't happened anywhere in this country the way it should. And I will be honest in the presence of so many witnesses who demand honesty from me. We in this administration, we have tried many times to get it right and there've been times when we just didn't succeed. Progress alluded us, strategies we thought would work failed, but we did not give up. We did not give up. We did not have the option to give up, because our fellow human beings were depending on us.

So we tried something new and I remember the day I stood with Steve banks and we announced the HOME-STAT initiative and we chose that name very purposely, everybody. Home for the very reason we've talked about already. Why stat? Because it invokes what has been one of the greatest successes in this city's modern history. Understanding that if we did something differently and looked at each and every specific situation, we could make a change. Comp Stat did that in a very different vein, making this city safe, but the underlying idea of not accepting the status quo, of looking for ways to change the equation of looking at each and every person and place where there was a problem. That idea resonates in HOME-STAT, because HOME-STAT means we don't give up on anybody. HOME-STAT means we have the aspiration to bring everybody home. The outreach workers, everyone who does street outreach, raise your hand. Everybody who does street outreach – these folks, I'm going to be talking about them. They – if you want the definition of an unsung hero, people who go out no matter what the conditions to help those in need and keep coming back no matter what is said, no matter what happens, they will not give up on their fellow human being. Let us thank these outreach workers for what they do.


HOME-STAT over the last three years has brought 2,450 people off the streets. Folks who are homeless for a long time, 2,450 people off the streets to a place that is safe and sound and has kept them off the streets or these 2,450 people, their lives have changed.


This is a huge victory. HOME-STAT has worked. HOME-STAT was an idea three years ago. It was never tried before on this scale. It was never tried with this intensity. It was an idea and now we know it's an idea that worked, and so we're going to go the next step. Today's announcement – clear as a bell – there's still thousands of people who have been homeless for a year, for two years, for five years, or even people who've been homeless and on our streets continuously for a decade. These are the folks who have been homeless, not as a temporary reality, but as a permanent reality. When we say long-term homelessness, we're talking about these very people and these outreach workers know – folks who have gotten so used to living on the streets that they believe that is the only home they will ever have, we say is time for that to end. Today we announce the journey home and this is a plan to end homelessness as we know it in New York City once and all.


If you want to understand what it means, there are so many New Yorkers are going to relate to what I'm about to say. Think about that corner in your neighborhood. Well, you have seen the same man or the same woman for years and years and that person doesn't have a home and we don't like it, we don't feel right about it, but we often feel powerless. This plan says that that person will have a home. That person will not be on that corner. They will not be subjected to that reality. We will bring them home. That's what we announce today.


How’s it going to work? I'm going to give you the simplest definition. Our outreach workers, more and more outreach workers than ever before. So first was to put together a team of talented, committed individuals and enough number to reach all those who are long-term homeless. Second, to add the medical team, the doctors, the nurses, the experts to help them support those homeless individuals and convince them that they can come home and get the help they deserve.

A single leadership location, the Joint Command Center, the Nerve Center that will determine where people are on the street and make sure the outreach workers, the medical teams, all the support they need gets to them – 24/7 never stopping until we get people to come on in. And the folks in the subways, folks in the subways, you stand up in a revolving door reality or sometimes they'd be arrested, then they'd be back in the subways. Maybe they'd be incarcerated for a while. They'd be back in the subways. Today's NYPD sees it differently. Today's NYPD has instituted an amazing strategy that says if you're in a subway and you're homeless, if you did something wrong. You could go through the criminal justice system or instead you could go to a Safe Haven right away. Here's a choice, the same old revolving door or go someplace safe and get on the path to a better life and you know what? Hundreds and hundreds of homeless people are choosing that Safe Haven and that's making a huge difference for them.


Second point, those medical professionals, I want to amplify that. It used to be that our outreach workers, there weren't enough of them. They couldn't keep going back time and time again like they knew they needed to, but they didn't have the ability to provide the help the homeless needed right then. They didn't have the ability to evaluate if someone had a serious mental health issue and needed immediate support. They did extraordinary work, but they needed backup. This plan now provides the medical personnel that will allow them to do their work in a way, never before possible. A third point and crucial and the coral commitment speaks to this right away knowing Catholic Charities will help us with five Safe Haven sites and that more will be coming from other faiths and other organizations. We want to make sure that the moment one of these good outreach workers find someone homeless and they are ready to come in, that that Safe Haven is ready for them. So we announce today 1,000 new Safe Haven beds for the homeless people in this city so we can get them in and get them safe.


And for those who are ready immediately to go to permanent affordable housing. The second they are ready, we announce on top of all the other supportive housing and affordable housing already being created, we're announcing 1,000 more low barrier, meaning ready to go, ready for these outwork reach workers to connect people to 1,000 more apartments to help get people off the streets.


We have asked everyone to be a part of this. In recent weeks we've talked about the roles that our city agencies are playing and that frontline city workers can play in this. We've asked our city workers to be compassionate eyes and ears in the community to help us know where there's someone homeless and needs our help so we can get help to them right away and that is already working. We've asked friends and family to engage us and we've said, you're not just going to call and get a recording. You're going to get a human being who's going to help you find your loved one. There are people on our streets yearning to be reunited with their families and their families trying to find their loved ones. But we didn't connect those dots before. Now we will and any family member, any friend who calls 3-1-1 will get the help they need to find their loved one on our streets, but we need you to do it. And let's face it, a lot of people on the streets because of crisis, because of tragedy, because of things that are very painful to talk about and I know it's not easy for the families, but we're asking everyone to come forward and help because we need to do something very different. If you know someone who is homeless and they're part of your family, they're part of your life, tell us, tell us where you think they are. Tell us what you think would help so that we can connect with them. We're asking everyone to be a part of this. We're asking every New Yorker to participate in any way they can.

I had the honor of bringing up two of the great faith leaders of this city. Before I do, I'm going to end with this point, especially at this season of faith and reflection. This is a time where we really take stock of ourselves. Here's the question, is it our moral duty to bring people home? I'm going to ask you again. Is it our moral duty to bring people home?

Audience: Yes.

Mayor: Is it a challenge that we can meet?

Audience: Yes.

Mayor: are we all going to work together in common cause?

Audience: Yes.

Mayor: So I conclude with this. It may have been a challenge, deemed insurmountable in the past. We may not had the tools. We may have not understood the ways, but I believe we are finally there. Let's together bring our brothers and sisters home.

Thank you.



Mayor: In a moment we’re going to turn to our colleagues in the press, but I want to conclude for everyone with this point – the season reminds us – the season reminds us we are our brother’s keepers. It’s as simple as that – and our sister’s keepers. The season reminds us if our fellow human being is in need, it’s on all of us to find a way. Everyone can help, it takes one finger and three digits to dial 3-1-1. If your family member or friend is someone on the street, dial 3-1-1. If you see someone homeless in your community in need, dial 3-1-1. Everyone can be part of this. And what New Yorkers need to know is, when they dial 3-1-1 that something will happen. And now, for the first time in our history, we have an extraordinary legion of good people who do this work with love and compassion, patience, persistence – they make all the difference in the world. So, I want to give them their due one more time. Everyone who does the outreach work, stand up.


And I want to give some credit where credit is due to the members of this administration who have been working so intensely on this plan, on our command center, on deepening our outreach efforts. I’m going to say their names one after another, I want you to applaud for all of them. 

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Raul Perea-Henze; Dr. Mitch Katz, CEO of Health and Hospitals; Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Commissioner of Health; Commissioner of Community Affairs, Marco Carrion; Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks; Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver; Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell; ThriveNYC Director Susan Herman; Chief of EMS FDNY Lillian Bonsignore; the new commanding officer of Homeless Outreach and Shelter Security for the NYPD, Inspector Phylis Byrne.


And to all the CORL leadership, all who have spoken and also Bishop Victor Brown; Imam Tahir Kukiqi; Reverend Que English; Elder David Buckner; Reverend Herbert Daughtry; Rabbi Michael Miller. 


If I failed to mention anyone, I hope God will forgive me.


And you can hand me a note.


And elected officials who have really stood by this effort to help the homeless and have helped us strengthen it time and time again, State Senator Brad Hoylman; and the Chair of the General Welfare Committee in the City Council, Councilman Steve Levin.


We are going to do a quick logistical thing here, the outreach workers, everyone – thank you – if you could stand up and move over to that side and members of the media come up into their seats, we will proceed into the press portion of this gathering. And you can applaud for the outreach workers while they do it.



Mayor: I apologize, I did fail to mention Bishop John O’Hara. Thank you, Bishop. 


Okay, we’re going to take questions now on this announcement today. Courtney?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Raul and Steve, come on up.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Okay. We’ve got several different pieces. Let me try and quickly piece them apart. We have a commitment from Catholic Charities for five – can I hear five – 


Five – six? No, five. So, Cardinal Dolan, Monsignor Sullivan committed to five new Safe Havens. We're going to work with all the other leaders of CORL, reaching out through their faiths to keep adding to that number. The number of beds we need is 1,000. We're absolutely confident with the help of CORL, we will get there in the course of these next five years and, obviously, as soon as possible. In terms of your second point, and the deputy mayor and the commissioner will add the – when we announced HOME-STAT, it had never been done before and we honestly knew we were taking a big chance trying to put that much people power and that much of an operation into place to try and get people in. We did not know – we thought it would work, but we did not know how far we could reach. We did not know if people would stay in. We needed to be sure. Three years later, we are absolutely convinced that this model is transformational. So then the question became, and we've talked about this over the last four or five months in detail, what will it take to go that next distance to ending long-term homelessness? And we had meeting after meeting – a huge percentage of people here in this room were in those meetings – to discern once and for all what it would take. And we knew we needed, at the end of those discussions, more Safe Havens. We needed those low-barrier affordable apartments. We needed additional outreach workers. We needed additional medical staff. This plan is a culmination of all of those discussions and we believe this is literally the resources we need to end long-term homelessness in the city. It's as simple as that. Would you like to add? 

Commissioner Steven Banks, Department of Social Services: I would just add to that, you know, when we announced HOME-STAT, there were skepticism about whether it would work, and the more than 2,450 people that have come off the streets and remained off the streets tell us that that approach will work and these additional resources is now going to allow us to deepen that approach. In terms of the 1,000 a Safe Haven beds, for example, we developed a pipeline that first tripled the number from 600 to 1,800, and now to get to an additional 1,000, which will have us with 2,800 low-barrier beds to bring people in from the streets. We've got the commitment from Catholic Charities, which is extremely important. There are other religious leaders who have been communicating to us, but we also have a pipeline that we've talked about in terms of 350 of those 1,000 beds. So, we can get them up and running as quickly as sites can be identified. And we're very confident that this will really enable us to do something that no city has tried to do before, which is to end long-term street homelessness.

Question: [Inaudible] in a year? In six months? A month?

Commissioner Banks: It’s on a rolling basis. As soon as we can identify a site and get it up and running, we will bring it on. And for the sites that are already in the pipeline, we believe that we can bring those on within the next year or so.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Banks: I think the challenge that any outreach worker will tell you is it's not whether we have a bed, but whether we have the right bed. And that's one of the things that we've learned in what it took to get the 2,450 people off the streets. We may have a bed for somebody, but it's not – it’s in a different borough or it's not in an area where the person would feel comfortable coming in from the streets because their comfort zone is defined by being in a particular area. So, a priority for us is to bring on more beds in the places where we've identified a great need for additional resources to bring in more people.

Mayor: One more point on this, because I want everyone to be able to visualize – the Safe Haven, typically – and, Steve, you'll amend if I get anything imperfect. Safe Haven is often 25 beds to 50 beds. You're talking about a preexisting building that's already outfitted to be able to be residential or something that can be easily converted, say a community center in a faith institution. So, that's why these things can be moved quickly. Obviously, the resources are they there to pay for the staffing, the support, the professionals that we need. But this is why unlike some bigger facilities, the Safe Havens work in large measure because they're smaller, they're more intimate. They have a sort of a host community that helps us. That's why it doesn't take so long, actually, once we find the location. And to use the example of Catholic Charities who are our partners in so much of what we do, they know exactly how to work with the city. Once they find a location, it's going to be seamless getting it up and running. 

Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible]

[Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze speaks in Spanish]

Mayor: Now you have to do it in English. 

Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: So sorry. The question was, how are we going to do with a 1,000 apartments? And I think Commissioner Banks alluded to some of the Safe Havens, finding the right location. We have identified 23 – 23 locations of high need across the city for where the Safe Havens can be. And the 1,000 beds come from enticing potential landlords to come in and offer some of the apartments in different new buildings and construction.

Question: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: Steve will speak to – I’ll talk about the overall budget impact, but Steve will speak to the second part.

Commissioner Banks: Again, the population of people who are experiencing long-term street homelessness, we want to not have any barriers to prevent our ability to bring them in from the streets, so there's not an employment requirement. If part of bringing people back off the streets is helping people connect to jobs, we’ll do that, but we don't want barriers to be in the way of bringing people in off the streets.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Banks: Correct.

Mayor: The team can go over all the details with you, but the – and I know there was a briefing earlier – but the simple way to think about this is we consider it a very, very high priority to end long-term homelessness. It was impossible to imagine that the City of New York could do that in previous years. It's actually achievable now, so it becomes a high-budget priority. For the current fiscal year, it will be a limited budget impact. But for the next fiscal year, it will be an impact approaching $100 million and we will have to find other savings and other ways to offset that. But again, I can't think of a better and more important thing to focus on in our budget.


Question: Mr. Mayor, I’m wondering [inaudible] that’s 3,600 people?

Mayor: No – 3,600 people, not every one of those is long-term homeless. Some people – I want to make sure everyone understands this. There are some people that are homeless on the streets of New York City for a day, a week, a month, go elsewhere or whatever it may be. What we're talking about is the folks who have been homeless a year, two years, five years on our streets In very, very round numbers, that’s probably about half the folks who are out there at any given moment. But overwhelmingly, those are the folks who need the help the most. Those are the folks that people see day after day. Those are the people in deepest need. We're saying, for those people, we are going to focus on getting each and every one of them in.

Question: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: Again, what we are saying – it's enough to get everyone who's long-term homeless off the streets, yes. We are not saying here – I want to be 100 percent clear – we’re not saying you will never see another homeless person. We are going to keep working for that day too. But what we're saying is, the people that we have known year after year to be in need, who have been out there, in some cases effectively permanently, no end in sight, we now know we can get those people in. We're going to focus on them. If someone else shows up for a brief period of time, we care about them, we’ll try and help them, but that's not the focus of this plan. This is about long-term homelessness, which is the real underlying scourge here.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I’ll start and Raul or Steve should join in. We have now – and I want to thank the NYPD for approaching this issue in a whole new way – we have hundreds of officers who have been trained specifically to work with the homeless, and that's a lot of whom goes out and does this work. We're obviously training officers at the precinct level on the fact that this is going to be a priority in how to work with the outreach workers. We're bringing those medical staffers in as well. What really matters here is connecting with people, gaining their trust, and the officers, particularly those who are trained to do that, also know how to do that and can do that. At the same time, we owe it to the people of this city to address specific challenges. So, sometimes there's a law that's been broken. Sometimes there's a quality of life issue that has to be addressed.
The NYPD has to play a role, but what the NYPD is doing is approaching that role in a way it has never done before. I want to thank Chief Byrne and so many others, the leaders the NYPD who have really focused on this and said we can do things differently. I think that example, Marcia, in the subways, I want to Commend Chief Delatorre who helped to spearhead this. Imagine – what we did in the past just created that revolving door – but instead saying to someone, instead of yet another summons and possibly ending up in jail again, come in and accept a Safe Haven bed, let's address your problems so it's not a matter of ending up in the criminal justice system, but actually taking a step toward a permanent home. I am telling you, Marcia, already hundreds and hundreds of homeless people have accepted that offer, and it's making a huge difference, and I commend the NYPD for that. Want to add anything? Good? 

Okay, go ahead.

Question: Mr. Mayor, part of this plan is the city’s rental voucher system [inaudible] permanent housing, the inability to find enough landlords to take that voucher [inaudible] SOTA program. [Inaudible] 

Mayor: I'll start and Steve should jump in. The vouchers – you’re absolutely right the way you start and you say that there are people who have vouchers and [inaudible] to use them. We're trying to address that every day. Some of that is discrimination, that’s illegal in this city and that's about enforcement. Some of that is making the vouchers easier to use and providing more support, so Steve certainly can speak to that bigger point, but this is not the central part of this plan. We think it will help with some people to have that option to have a voucher. The most essential part of this plan is getting people to Safe Havens and then onto affordable housing and other ways.

Commissioner Banks: Again, I think it's important to understand the voucher aspect of this plan is really what the core of the plan is all about, which is giving our outreach workers more tools and so the voucher works for one person to bring them off the streets. That is a success. So what we've learned since we implemented HOME-STAT is giving the outreach workers more tools can make more of a difference. To your larger point, 133,000 people have secure permanent housing through our rental assistance and rehousing programs. The vast majority of them have moved out of shelter. So, tens of thousands of people have been able to use the rental assistance. It is true what the Mayor said, however, that there is source of income discrimination it’s the reason why we've created a source of income discrimination unit at the Department of Social Services and we’ve brought cases against landlords who have not, not comply with that law. The SOTA program is for people who have income levels above the eligibility for rental assistance. So the group of clients that we're focused on here are people who are on the streets. We don't want them to have to remain on the streets. We want to give our outreach workers every tool that we can.

Mayor: Right, so the point, just to make sure we're clear on that point, it's not the same population as in the SOTA program. Back there.

Question: So, the City is also purchasing a number of buildings. Is that part of [inaudible]? Can you explain that? Explain how much money is spent on those buildings?

Mayor: The City is purchasing buildings wherever we can appropriately as part of creating affordable housing and reducing the number of people in shelter. This is really about street homelessness. When we, two and a half years ago we put out the turning the tide plan that was about reducing the number of people in shelter. This that we presented today is now going to be the definitive roadmap, the definitive strategy going forward for reducing street homelessness. So it interconnects in some ways, but it's not sort of the core of what we're doing here today.

Question: Mr. Mayor, can you say how many people that you would like to see off the streets by the end of your term and what would you say to criticism, which I know will be coming by making this a five year thing, you're passing the buck to the next one?

Mayor:  No, I couldn't disagree more with that last part. I will speak to your first question, but I just want to affirm this. Yeah, if we think we can solve any societal problem in just two years, then I always like to say it's, you know, marijuana is not yet legal in New York State. We've got to be real about the fact that we're talking about homelessness in New York City as we know it today is about 40 years old. We have plans for addressing global warming and New York City must play a major role in that. That plan takes us out to 2050 because it has to be able to be effective and do everything we want to do. I mean, a huge number of our plans are everything we can do now and then continuing into to the future. And the people have to decide they want to continue those plans, obviously. But I think it's actually irresponsible to not offer a roadmap when we think we finally have one that will work long-term. Three years ago, I honestly, if you had said to me, is HOME-STAT going to work enough that we could stand here and put ourselves on the hook for ending long-term homelessness. I would have said, I don't know how we could do that. I don't know how we could reach that goal. I am hopeful for it, but that's a world we'd never been to. It has worked beyond anything we could have conceived of. And when you see this kind of success and the human impact, it has opened a door for something very, very new. So for two years we're going to implement this with intense urgency. And if it is working, and I believe it will, I strongly believe my successor will continue it.

In terms of numbers, look, at the end of the five years, if you end long-term homelessness, you're taking about half the people off the streets that you see on any given day. But I want to emphasize you're taking the folks off the streets who have the most profound problems. You're taking the folks off the streets who are not just going to be there the next day, but the next year and the year after that. So not only will it be the most humane, the most compassionate dealing with the word of need is greatest. The city will feel very differently at the end of five years, because I'm being very honest. I am sure, sadly you will still see some people homeless but you will not see anywhere near the extent or the severity. And I think what breaks the hearts of New Yorkers is that person they see day after day, month after month, year after year, and that person that has no sense of any other future but to be on the streets, this can end that once and for all. People who haven't gone? Anyone who has not gone? Yes.

Question: Can you talk a little bit about the timing of this announcement? Why now? And is it an acknowledgement that New Yorkers feel like homelessness is getting worse?

Mayor: The timing is – first of all, New Yorkers are deeply, deeply concerned about homelessness. There's no two ways about that, and it pains people and they – I've had this conversation with so many people, town hall meetings and so many the other places, everyone wants to see a bigger solution. The timing is that we finally believe we have a plan that will work. When we announced Turning the Tide two and a half years ago, we believed we had the definitional approach to reducing the population in shelter once and for all. And I said back then, that was going to be a long, long battle, but we could get there. Now because of the success of HOME-STAT, and because we've called together the agencies over these last months and tried to see how much farther we could go, I have to really command all the leaders here. Every one of them has made it. Every single one of them has made it their business to reduce homelessness. It doesn't matter if it's Health + Hospitals or Parks or Sanitation. Everyone considers it their responsibility to help, and they've been helping in amazing ways. We didn't have that before. We didn't have the notion of a single command center, which we're going to take you all to in the coming weeks to show you how different it is that literally each and every hotspot, each place where there's a person in need now will have a direct and immediate response. We didn't have that approach before. So we're announcing it now because we finally believe we have an approach that will work. Who has not gone? Please.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Banks: I mean, first let's come back to basic principles, getting people off the streets. So, getting someone off the streets into a Safe Haven, we want that to be a place where people will come in and stay until they're on a path to stability, to be able to connect to permanent housing. And depending on what the situation is with individual, we'll connect them to employment and that would give them the kind of supports that they need. But knowing so many of the people who have ended up on the streets, they've fallen through every social safety net that exists. I want to be realistic that these are individuals that may need ongoing support for a very long time.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Banks: We want to keep a roof over their heads and not have them end up in the street, yes.

Question: Will they have roommates, or their own apartments?

Commissioner Banks: We're open to working with the faith leaders for whatever configuration makes sense. We're not going to turn anything down without taking a real hard look at it.

Mayor: Who has not gone? Yes.

Question: So, you mentioned [inaudible] is that going to be tied anyway to [inaudible] –

Mayor: Is that going to be tied to?

Question: The bill that’s going to be voted on Thursday [inaudible]?

Mayor: I'll start and Raul, and Steve, whoever wants to add. I think the simple argument here is a simple explanation here is that the bill is about the ongoing need to create a permanent options. Safe Havens, again, by their nature, are transitional. We want this, these 1,000 beds, to be the waystation.

Question: [Inaudible] low barrier [inaudible]

Mayor: Okay, speak to that Steve.

Commissioner Banks: I think it, maybe this is a helpful way to put it, the low barrier permanent housing is, is that extension of the Safe Haven approach and initiatives involving homeless set-asides is focused on a much larger context. This is very much focused on human being by human being. What's it going to take to get them off the streets on a pathway to greater stability in their lives? And on that pathway is transitional Safe Havens. And then as a permanent situation housing, that that looks like a Safe Haven in the sense that it's low barrier, there are supportive services as needed, and we're going to try to get them up as quickly as possible.

Question: [Inaudible] is that per annual basis over five years or – could you break that down?

Mayor: It’s the fiscal initial and again will be in the budget that will be announced in January, we will refine that number. So that’s an approximate number for the following fiscal year. Not the current year. The current year again will be a relatively small allocation. But in January we will define that number very specifically and then what it will mean for additional years. But what I feel comfortable telling you now is for the next fiscal year, Fiscal ’21, approximately $100 million investment. Who has not gone? Not gone?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Okay, is this about this topic, just to clarify?

Question: It is.

Mayor: Okay.

Question: Mayor Fulop from Jersey City tweeted that, with regards to this plan [inaudible] lawsuit Newark against New York City, he says with regard to this plan, specifically the Mayor’s plan does not solve the problem that [inaudible]?

Mayor: I haven’t talked to him and this plan obviously has been, I don’t know, respectfully. I believe you are relating what you believe to be true but I know Mayor Fulop enough to know if he hasn’t been briefed on this plan he wouldn’t assume the details of it. So I look forward to talking to him about this plan. I think the obvious reality here is if the City of New York is saying we are making a commitment that the City has never made before, we are going to end long-term homelessness, you’ve never heard those words come out of the lips of a mayor. We believe we can do it now. I don’t blame my predecessors for the challenges they faced. But we now believe we can end long-term homelessness. I am sure when Mayor Fulop hears this plan, he will see how substantial it is. But as to any kind of activity by any city legally, I answer the same way I have. We are going to work with all of our fellow mayors, county execs, anyone who wants to try and find a solution to the homelessness problem, it’s a regional problem, it needs a regional solution. And of course we are going to defend what we believe are constitutional rights in court. Who has not gone, not gone? Anyone not gone? Yes?

Question: Mr. Mayor the Archdiocese as a network outside of New York City, Westchester, [inaudible] where they have Archdiocese schools, have you considered discussing with the Archdioceses going into other counties that they have [inaudible] reach?

Mayor: I think you know the central focus right now with Archdioceses is to focus on Safe Havens and getting those up and running in the five boroughs. We have not had a discussion about properties outside the city. Who has not gone. Not gone, last call, not gone. Way back there.

Question: Mr. Mayor, [inaudible] your administration’s presented several plans to address the homelessness issue in the city. The fact that you are presenting plan after plan [inaudible] this is an evolving problem that you constantly have to adjust to, what does it say about the previous plans that we still sit here with such a crisis on our hands?

Mayor: It’s a couple of things, I think you are absolutely right to say it’s an evolving problem. And again we need to be blunt and honest in this city, that homelessness results from a variety of factors. Originally it was because people were dumped on the streets out of mental institutions that were scandalous and horrible and we were promised halfway houses and promised support from the State of New York and it never came. So it began with just thousands of people being dumped on the streets. It continued with prisoners being dumped from prisons onto the streets with no support. And folks with substance abuse problems with no place to go. And the shelter side of the equation is entirely different. As I have said that’s more and more working families, but the street side of the equation has sustained over decades tragically, and what we have found is we have tried different strategies . For a long time we didn’t see the kind of impact we wanted until HOME-STAT. That was three years ago. We had to make sure it worked. It has worked, it’s worked beyond anything we could have seen. I mean 2,450 people is a staggering number of people to bring in and keep in. So this plan is based on a strategy that worked. And now can be made really a big, long term solution. Turning The Tide was based on a group of strategies that we had not tried before as a city, we are now implementing them. We believe that’s working, it’s going to take time. And I said it the first day. But those new shelters are being built. We are moving people closer to their home communities. We are insuring that more and more people get to affordable housing. What’s the total number now?

Commissioner Banks: 133,000.

Mayor: 133,000 since the beginning of this administration who were homeless, have gotten to permeant affordable housing. So those pieces are moving forward and it will ultimately bring down the shelter population substantially. So huge problems, yes adjustments but this is a plan actually based in fact, the power of the HOME-STAT initiative and what it has proved. Anyone who has not gone, last call – not gone. And then we will go back and do some more, go ahead.

Question: Just a quick question, since it is interconnected, I’m wondering if you have looked at some of the buildings that the City is purchasing to turn into homeless shelters or homeless apartments, apartments for the homeless. And specifically by [inaudible] purchasing it from them, about $40 million being spent, have you looked at the condition of those apartment buildings, why the City would go on to purchase those apartments given the condition of them?

Commissioner Banks: So a little context is important here. The cluster program began under the Giuliani administration. At its high point there were 3,600 units in that program. We said we were going to end it. We are on track to do that. And one of the strategies that we have employed is financing the purchase of buildings by trusted not-for-profits to then make those units permanently affordable and upgrade the conditions. We are still in the midst of negotiations about those buildings and obviously conditions are always an issue as part of the negotiations. But at the end of the day, we have, we have potentially hundreds of people who will end up in permanent housing as a result of these continued transactions that we are doing. And stay tuned we are going to keep doing them as we said we would.

Mayor: Marcia?

Question: [Inaudible]?

Mayor: I will let Steve speak to how to define where the right bed is and where we need it most.

Commissioner Banks: There are communities that we can all see in parts of Manhattan where people who are on the streets have been there for a long time. And offering a bed to someone there that’s in the Bronx is not going to bring someone off the streets. Similarly there are parts of every borough where we could use additional Safe Haven beds. You know first order is we will continue to evaluate the proposals we have got in the pipeline for 350 beds. And we are going to work with Catholic Charites and all the faith leaders about where they can identify them. But I think that you and anyone can look around to see where there are numbers of homeless people on the streets and these are areas where we need additional beds.

Question: [Inaudible] people that you have helped 2,450 [inaudible] about half a dozen are either from the subways or in Manhattan so does that mean that you [inaudible] Safe Haven beds in Manhattan because that’s where people are?

Commissioner Banks: They may not be from Manhattan that just means where we were able to bring them in. So again, I know that there’s a tendency, what’s the broad brush? The way we have gotten the 24 – more than 2,450 people off the streets is by not taking a broad brush approach but by taking individual by individual approach, that’s what’s been missing for almost 40 years. And that’s where we are having success for the last three years.

Mayor: Go ahead, we are going to do a few more, go ahead.

Question: Mr. Mayor in late 2015 the administration announced a collaboration with religious institutions including the Archdiocese to create five [inaudible] Safe Haven beds and about a year later, only 72 were up in running in religious institutions. And one of the reasons cited were building code issues with religious institutions. So I am wondering you know why would it be different this time and have you addressed those issues?

Mayor: The one, is everything is different over the years so houses of worship,  I know this from working with so many of my colleagues, one year they may not a space available and the next year they may that fits particularly well. Anything that we need to do to address building issues – we are always going to make sure the facilities are safe. We are going to stay to the law but the Buildings Department is another example of an agency that has been front and center over these last months in these strategic meetings, playing it’s part in trying to address issues in a way that wasn’t true before. So I think we have learned some important lessons about bringing literally every agency into it and problem solving in regular meetings where we have a situation like that that needs to be done. I feel confident that we can continue to resolve those issues and continue to get more Safe Havens. And all of CORL now is going to be activated to find us sites that we didn’t have before. Okay, a few more.

Question: [Inaudible] follow up on that. How many beds are in religious institutions now?

Commissioner Banks: I will need to get back to you on that. I think that the key fact, the key development between 2015 and now is we have often opened a lot of spaces for both shelters and Safe Havens all across the city and I think that the ability to do it has been enhanced since we originally began on this effort. But we will get back to you on that number.

Mayor: Last two.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you said that this will be the [inaudible] reality but you only have five [inaudible] so far out of you know all of these leaders behind you, the City promised 90 new shelters but only 30 are you know a reality right now. 30 in the pipeline, 30 haven’t even come to the drawing board. The City is increasingly relying on hotel shelters despite your promise to shut them down? So just tell the public why we can believe that [inaudible]?

Mayor: Yes, I think again I respect you, I will not be surprised ever if your question has a certain approach to it. Talk about glass half full or glass have empty. A plan announced two and half years ago – 30 shelters up and running, 30 that will be up and running soon. And the remainder we believe will be up and running in the time frame that we laid out. And this is not easy to do. Let’s be clear we have dealt with all sorts of challenges getting these shelters up and running but they continue to get up and running. So I actually think in a world where declaring that we would do 90 new shelters, a lot of people dismissed out of hand and said it was an impossibility. But you are acknowledging even in your question that there’s been steady progress made. I actually think that affirms this can be done. I think that fact that we have as many Safe Haven beds as we have now affirms this can be done. The fact that 2,450 people are off the streets affirms it. You either want to believe that we can solve the problem or you don’t. So this is what I say to all the Doubting Thomases, you could keep doing what we we’ve done for years and years and years and if somehow that satisfies you, God bless you. But we are actually saying we believe we can solve long term homelessness. We’ve never been able to say that before. This is actually based on innovation, experimentation, trial and error, yes. But actual results – 2,450 human beings who now are off the streets who used to see the streets as their only home. That’s why we are confident. Go ahead.

Question: What is the total approximate [inaudible] cost of this program – the total [inaudible] $100 million for FY 2021, what’s the approximate –

Mayor: That will come out in the January budget personation. We are refining that now and it will be part of that presentation.

Question: Can you just say in broad strokes what that $100 million [inaudible]?

Mayor: Sure, do you want to? I can do it but you think you can do it more eloquently? Again we are not going to be doing itemizing here. We will follow up with you after, we will give you broad strokes.

Commissioner Banks: Pays for the cost of operating a Safe Haven bed. Pays for the cost of operating a low barrier permeant housing unit. It pays for the expansion of our outreach workers, we have now tripled the number of outreach workers that we have. And it pays for a number of the technology enhancements that we have both with the command center and in giving the Street Smart capability to our outreach workers.

Question: [Inaudible] Can you define those terms? What is a low barrier bed, what is a Safe Haven?

Commissioner Banks: So, a Safe Haven is and I think there is a footnote in the report that gives you a very concise definition but in common sense terms, Safe Haven is a place that is operated by not-for-profit, our street teams have found them to be very effective in bringing people in off the streets because they are low barriers. And there’s an array of social services and other supportive services that are provided. We are taking that approach now to our permeant housing model to essentially build on Safe Havens, to have a Safe Haven approach for permanent housing apartments for the same group of clients.

Mayor: Okay and there will be further detail provided. I want to thank colleagues in the media, thank all the commissioners, all the leaders of agencies, everyone from the agencies for the good work you do and especially thank the faith leaders for being with us. And we will stick around in a moment for off topic. Thank you everybody.


Question: Mr. Mayor, [inaudible] transparency, [inaudible]. So what I'd like to know is what do you know about the Police Department’s plan coming this 2020 to encrypt all police radios in New York City, there’ll be nothing – no information going to the press, unless they decide [inaudible]?

Mayor: I've never heard of any plan described that way. So I'm happy to talk to Commissioner Shea and you know, we will make sure to give you a clear answer, but I literally have not heard of anything described that way. So –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Again, I believe you are expressing –

Question: Not one elected official knows anything about that?

Mayor: We're going to find out about it and get you an answer. Back there.

Question: So, Mr. Mayor [inaudible] two questions. First, your message to the family of the Bronx, teenager that went missing, that was kidnaped in the middle of the street. Do you have a message to her family? Also, do you feel like the city is safer?

Mayor: I'll, I'll answer that [inaudible] the first one is very personal for that family. I'm a parent of two children, so I look at this from a very human level. For that family right now, you know, they are so worried, so scared for their child. I have talked to Commissioner Shea about this. The NYPD is using all its resources to get to the bottom of what's happened and make sure that child is safe. I don't have a further update than that, but I know every resource is being expended. Go ahead.

Question: When you saw that video, just went through your mind?

Mayor: I will always tell you when I've seen the video or I have not, I have not yet seen that video.

Question: I'm wondering, do you think that the city safer compared to the last year?

Mayor: Absolutely. Again, I understand as a New Yorker, thee anxiety people feel, the fear they  feel whenever there is a horrible incident, whether it's here or in Jersey city, honestly – and I understand why people who lived through the bad old days worry about them coming back. I understand all that. I was there too. But I keep saying we are not going back to those days, it is proven in so many ways this is an entirely different city and entirely different NYPD. And further, once again in 2019 the NYPD has driven down crime. And that means for human beings, many fewer crimes affecting people's lives. Those are the facts. So the emotions, the feelings, the fear, I fully understand and we have to respond to that too, but numbers really do matter, factually do matter, crime continues to go down.

Question: What about murder and violent crime?

Mayor: There's no question that we've seen in the last months. Remember we didn't see this in the middle of the year, but we have seen it now, an uptick emerge we take very, very seriously. Compared to even a few years ago. It's a much, much better situation and the same and the point is, and we know more and more exactly where the problem is coming from. That's what precision policing is all about. And I – look, I always say, don't bet against NYPD. Look at what they've done in the last six years. Look what they've done the last 25 years. The trend is 100 percent consistent and I believe they will continue to drive down crime. Back there.

Question: Have you heard about the woman who was killed by debris in Midtown, Manhattan?

Mayor: Say it again, I'm sorry.

Question: The woman who was killed by falling debris in Midtown, Manhattan – I’m wondering if you have any comment. Have you seen the video?

Mayor: Again that happened just before I came here. I have not seen the video. It's a horrible incident. My heart goes out to the family. It is obviously a full investigation going on. We need to know how that happened. We need to make sure it doesn't happen again. But I can't give you a full briefing now. I’ll have more to say later in the day. Yes.

Question: Signing for the vaping bill that you signed into law. A couple of advocates spoke about the need to get flavored nicotine, like menthol cigarettes off the market. [Inaudible] all flavored nicotine should be banned. Do you plan on addressing this in 2020? Is that something you’re going to –

Mayor: Yeah, we're going to for sure. So again, I'll start as a parent. It was heartbreaking yesterday to hear the stories from young people that talked about how they got hooked on vaping because it was everywhere, because they had all these ads telling them it was okay, because it had been made cool. I mean, it's disgusting. And look, menthol is another tactic that the tobacco companies used to keep people hooked, to get them hooked, to keep them hook. Chirlane has been adamant about this for years. She has been very, very focused on anything and everything that will reduce tobacco usage. I'm focused on it for a very painful reason. My dad used to smoke two or more packs a day and he ended up with lung cancer and emphysema and it was horrible to watch. It was sickening. And if you go through that in your family, you recognize how much evil was done and it was done consciously and it was done for companies to make a profit. It's unconscionable. So yeah, I think we should do a menthol ban, and I'll work for that. Yes.

Question: Mr. Mayor, Speaker Johnson said this morning on Good Day New York that he couldn’t remember the last time the two of you spoke, but it was more than a month ago. I’m wondering if you remember the last time you spoke? And why it has been so long?

Mayor: Yes, I do. We spoke about two hours ago and the time before that we spoke right on the Eve of the legislation being passed on bike lanes and street plans for the future of New York City. And we agreed on what that legislation would be. So here's a two year wrap-up. We're almost end of year. Issue after issue after issue, Corey Johnson and I have found solutions and they have been expressed in budgets, legislation, time and time again. Huge issues have been resolved in just the last few months – getting off of Rikers Island, building the community based jails, the vaping bill is a great example. So many other things – the set-asides on homeless. Time and time again, we get to a point of positive resolution. That's what I assume in every, every time I talk to him, every time my staff talks to his staff that we will find a way forward. And we do literally almost every time.

Question: What did you do talk about two hours ago?

Mayor: We talked about the upcoming issues, the budget, the Albany session, the kinds of things we've always talked about. Yes.

Question: Did you happen to see a story in the Daily News the other day about people who were taken down by the Feds as part of this Gambino take down, they gave campaign contributions to Council Member Mark Gjonaj. It was about two weeks ago.

Mayor: Don’t know about it.

Question: I want to get your reaction. 

Mayor: I just haven’t seen it. I’ll happily look at it, I haven’t seen it. 


Question: Two of the alleged people indicted by the Feds for alleged mafia activity –

Mayor: Again, I haven’t seen it. And you just said, have I seen it – I haven't seen it. I can't comment on it until I see it.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I wonder how you feel about DOI investigating the security expenses you [inaudible] up when you ran for president. And do you think your campaign should reimburse the City for –

Mayor: Marcia, mayor's for generations have traveled around the country and traveled around the world and had NYPD protection, and I followed the rules. The NYPD that existed before I became mayor – and that they believe were absolutely necessary, especially in an ever more challenging world, that’s what we go by. So, we've just done – I’ve done what previous mayors have done. I think everything we've done has been done appropriately. As to DOI, we’ll certainly – if they have anything that they want to know about, my team and I will cooperate in every way.

Question: I think the issue is whether the City should pay for something that’s a partisan [inaudible] and the lawyers that have been involved in talking to [inaudible] –

Mayor: Again – I respect him, but that's just – I think it is abundantly clear mayors have traveled all over the country and all over the world for partisan causes and in pursuit of their duty and everything in between. And they have always been afforded police protection. It's just a clear, consistent standard that is everything I've ever been told by the NYPD. 

Back there?

Question: So, AOC tweeted today that she's against the governor’s plan to add [inaudible] cops to the subway. The MTA board is voting on this tomorrow. Your representatives are against the idea [inaudible] criticism of the Governor that [inaudible]?

Mayor: Okay, there's a couple of different things going on. I'll try and be quick. I have not seen her particular remarks, so, again, I can't comment on something I haven't seen. The people I appoint to MTA board exercise their own judgment. If you know David Jones, for example, you would know this is a very, very respected senior statesman in this city and he is going to exercise his own judgment. I don't always agree with every appointee, but that is the way it works. The notion of, would we accept more police to support our efforts for safety in the subway? Of course we would. I have said time and time again, I think the NYPD is not only doing its job, but doing its job very well. If you look at the facts in the subway, crime has gone down consistently over the years and it's about one crime per million riders at this point on a given day. So, I think the NYPD is doing his job and it's going to continue to enhance its efforts. If there were additional officers, we would work with them. But what I've also said is, one, we’ve got to make sure if there's any additional officers that are not NYPD that they are working under the leadership of the NYPD and they're trained to work with the NYPD and that they are approaching this very carefully, because armed officers who are not used to working in our subways create a challenge for themselves and everybody else. We need to make sure it's done the right way. The members of the board I think are also concerned about expense and the different challenges and where to take the MTA’s resources and use them. And I think one of the criticisms has been, where is a clear plan for the use of these officers? And how does that compare with other crying needs at the MTA? I think those are the tough questions the board members have been asking.

Question: [Inaudible] improving service [inaudible]?

Mayor: Again, my view is, nothing should be done without a plan. We certainly don't have that plan right now. The most important thing for the MTA board to focus on is getting the trains to run on time. The NYPD can take care of security. If the MTA board decides to give additional officers, we'll work with them, but they have to be trained properly to work under the NYPD's leadership. 

Last call, anyone else? Going once? Yes?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Again?

Question: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: I’m sorry, which agency are we discussing? Say the non-acronym. 

Question: The Department of Homeland Security. 

Mayor: Okay, go ahead. When you said DHS at this press conference I thought you meant the Department of Homeless Services. I’m like, I did?

Question: [Inaudible]?

Mayor: Look, I think what has been clear throughout is that the Trump administration on so many levels has used the Department of Homeland Security in an inappropriate way and an inhumane way, and I'm going to call it out when I see it.

Question: [Inaudible] you two discussed adding Safe Haven beds in different [inaudible] and that you dismissed [inaudible] cost-effective. So, I’m wondering if that was indeed the case and, if so, what changed?

Commissioner Banks: Actually, I was very open to the possibility of using some of the locations that he talked to me about. But unfortunately, I think in all but one case, the locations were not available 24 hours. And one of the things that was – I think the first day of the 90-day review, I believe Marcia Kramer interviewed me that day, and I think the very first thing I did when we did the 90-day review was eliminate the requirement that people leave shelter during the day. So, one of the things we've certainly demonstrated is the importance of providing 24-hour access to shelter and not simply an overnight bed. So, the inability to use various of the locations that he – that were presented to us was because of the fact that they wouldn't be 24 hours and we didn't think it's appropriate to have people turn back out onto the street in the morning. There was one location in which we did work with the local faith leader and were able to make use of that site. 

Question: [Inaudible] wasn’t cost effective?

Commissioner Banks: I think that he may be referring to the fact that if you have a shelter with 100 beds in it – different than today's announcement – that, that is more cost effective than other ways of providing traditional shelter. This is about safe – this announcement that is about Safe Havens – different thing.

Mayor: Everybody, want to wish you a very Merry Christmas; Happy Hanukkah; Happy Kwanzaa; Happy Three Kings’ Day; Happy New Year. 

Take care, everyone.

Media Contact
(212) 788-2958