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Working with Communities

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In New York City, all New Yorkers experiencing homelessness have a right to shelter. For four decades, multiple administrations utilized a series of band-aid approaches to comply with this court-ordered legal mandate, including by placing New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in inefficient stop-gap settings, such as commercial hotels or "cluster" sites, where vulnerable individuals were not provided with the resources and services they needed and deserved to get back on their feet.

Our strategies are starting to take hold, headed in the right direction: the NYC DHS shelter census for 2017, 2018, and 2019 remained roughly flat year over year for the first time in more than a decade at approximately 60,000, and now, the DHS shelter census stands at approximately 46,000 – well below the level in 2014 and with the first sustained census reduction since the right to shelter orders four decades ago; and since the launch of the Turning the Tide plan in 2017, we've already:

  • Ended the use of more than 300 shelter buildings as part of our commitment to ending the use of the band-aid measures of previous administrations, including the 21-year-old cluster program, which has now been fully phased out.
  • Sited and opened dozens of new high-quality, borough-based shelters across the City, including in communities that previously did not have these critical resources to enable families and individuals to obtain shelter as close as possible to the anchors of their lives like schools, jobs, healthcare, houses of worship, and support networks.
  • Reduced our overall DHS shelter system footprint by 45%.

Since 2017, DHS has made the commitment to provide advance notice to our elected partners and communities about the siting of shelter. Our average days' notice before opening a new shelter facility stands at more than 250 (259) days – in contrast to the past when shelters were typically opened with no notice at all.

Regarding our open invitation to all communities to join us in the mission to address homelessness

To improve outcomes for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, we have been implementing a borough-based approach to providing shelter—offering our neighbors in need the opportunity to stabilize their lives, closer to their support networks in the communities they last called home. We've said repeatedly—in public and private forums, in meetings, in conversations with communities and elected officials, and in our annual site request letter sent to every Community Board and elected official that in order to truly transform a haphazard shelter system decades in the making, we need to open the type of high-quality facilities that our neighbors experiencing homelessness and communities deserve.

New Yorkers experiencing homelessness come from every community across the five boroughs, so we need every community to come together to address homelessness. Nobody wants to see families with children or single adults without a roof over their heads on the street, and every night we have a legal obligation to provide shelter.

In our annual letter to Community Boards and elected officials, we have asked everyone to join us at the table to help address homelessness across the five boroughs, notably by helping to identify viable sites within/across communities that can be proposed to us by not-for-profit service providers through our open-ended RFP process. See the most recent annual request letter here.

Quality proposals must reflect the borough-based approach and equitable siting goals that are central to our transformation plan; and the developer or property owner, as the sole entity with the authority to determine how their property will/can be used, must be supportive and committed to participating, having agreed to partner with a not-for-profit service provider in that undertaking.

Every neighborhood across New York City has a part to play in addressing this citywide challenge. The City and the nonprofit service provider-partners we work with to help our neighbors experiencing homelessness get back on their feet are committed to ongoing, open engagement and working with all community stakeholders, including local elected officials, community board members, and local block associations, as well as faith-based and community-based organizations so that, together, we can ensure that a transitional housing shelter facility is integrated seamlessly into the community and our clients receive a warm welcome—and we welcome community input to help identify ways in which we can collaboratively achieve this goal. To that end, at the time when DHS has an approved shelter proposal from a not-for-profit reviewed through the RFP process, the agency provides formal notification to our elected partners and the local community board. Following this notification, DHS will work with the community board to host an informational session so that DHS can introduce the non-profit provider to the community and provide an opportunity to learn about the project and the plan to serve New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. When a site opens, we will establish a Community Advisory Board (CAB) which will hold regular meetings and maintain direct lines of communication between staff, including on-site security, and communities to ensure any community concerns are proactively addressed as they arise.

For information on upcoming informational sessions about proposed DHS shelters, please contact your local community board or see below.

Every community has the opportunity to provide input in the site selection process by helping to identify viable locations that social service providers can propose to us through the Open-Ended RFP. If you know of a location in your community that could be suitable for providing high-quality shelter to New Yorkers in need, please contact intergov@dss.nyc.gov.

Standards for Community Involvement under § 21-324

  1. DSS Borough Directors will present annually to the Borough Cabinet Meeting to provide updates on the agency's work to meet the legal obligations in providing shelter.
    1. At the request of any Community Board, DSS Borough Directors in partnership with agency staff will make board-specific presentations about the agency's work and need to site shelters in order to meet the legal obligations in providing shelter.
  2. In advance of opening a proposed shelter, the department will conduct at least one public information session on the shelter.
    1. The goal of the public information session is to hear feedback from the community
    2. The public information session will be held in the community district in which the proposed shelter will be sited or via an online forum.
    3. The public information session will be held in accordance with open meeting laws.
    4. The public information session details will be posted on the agency website.
    5. A transcript of the public information session will be made available upon request
    6. DHS will respond in writing to questions/comments raised at the public information session and will distribute the responses to the local Community Board and elected officials.

Upcoming DHS Community Information Sessions

  1. October 17, 2022 – Bronx Community Board 3 Meeting regarding shelter siting at 1511 Fulton Avenue. Please contact Bronx CB 3 for more information.