FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DISCUSSES REDUCTION IN CITY HOMELESS POPULATION IN WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's weekly radio address as prepared for delivery on 1010 WINS News Radio for Sunday, March 9, 2008
"Good Morning. This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
"I've always believed that you can't manage a problem unless you've measured it. That's why last January - for the fourth consecutive year - seventeen-hundred volunteers took to the streets in the dead of night to conduct an estimate of the street homeless population in all five boroughs of our city. By the end of the night, the volunteers had checked hundreds of parks, inspected more than 1,000 subway cars, and covered more than 8,000 miles of streets.
"What they found - or rather, what they didn't find - was encouraging. By their count, the number of New Yorkers living on our streets has dropped 12% over the past year to some 3,300 people. That's still too many - but it's a 25% drop since our first citywide count in 2005. And it means our rate of homelessness is now far below most other major American cities, such as Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco.
"Getting even more New Yorkers off the streets and into housing will hinge on us continuing the programs and initiatives that have played a big part in these recent reductions. That means continuing our targeted interventions - including our efforts to clear makeshift homeless encampments wherever they crop up.
"It means improving accountability - which is why we now evaluate contracts with our non-profit partners based not on the number of times they reach out to the homeless, but how well they actually do in placing the homeless in permanent housing.
"And it means having the courage to try new solutions. For instance, this year, we'll expand the number of Safe Havens - which are basically smaller shelter alternatives with fewer rules that provide warm beds to people who have traditionally avoided the shelter system.
"We also are going to continue depending on help from the public. It's not uncommon for New Yorkers to see a homeless person during the course of our day as we travel around the city. And because of our big hearts, it's not unusual to help out the homeless with some spare change. Despite these good intentions, however, the experts say that this generosity may actually be prolonging their stay on the street.
"The fact is, New Yorkers living on the street are not going to get their lives back on track through handouts alone. What they truly need is to get real help for the problems that in many cases may have put them on the street in the first place. And that's the message of a new subway advertising campaign which we launched last week.
"So the next time you see a homeless person who is struggling, rather than reach for your change, call 311. We'll send one of our outreach teams, who will work - respectfully and firmly - to get this person into housing, enrolled in treatment programs, or into shelter. If you want, we'll even call you back with an update about what happened as a result of your call.
"That's change which really will make a difference.
"This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Thanks for listening."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958