By DANIELLE KOGAN
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announced on Thursday a new initiative that would formally require city workers to report the locations of homeless persons they happen to come across to the city government.
The controversial plan, known as Outreach NYC, mandates that 18,000 city employees across five agencies get formally trained on how to use all aspects of the 311 app to submit reports related to the location of the homeless. Each report will be routed to the city’s new Joint Command Center, which is managed by the New York Police Department and the Department of Homeless Services.
Interagency staff will be responsible for analyzing trends and deploying outreach assistance involving homeless individuals, including the medically ill, with the goal of getting homeless New Yorkers off the streets and subways. The city plans to hire an additional 180 outreach workers for this initiative, bringing the total number of employees available to combat the problem to over 500, de Blasio announced.
The five agencies to receive training include the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the FDNY, the Department of Buildings, and the Parks Department.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said de Blasio in a 14th Street press conference, “I think we can reduce this problem…The goal here is to help human beings. These people [the outreach workers] are angels, no one should mistake the motivation.”
De Blasio also announced a new deputy mayor for Health and Human services. Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, who is moving from Miami, is taking on a position that has been unoccupied for almost five months.
A physician with extensive experience in the public sector, Dr. Raul Perea-Henze previously served as President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary for policy and planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I’ve devoted my life to helping others,” said Perea-Henze, who said the topic of mental illness had always been personal, “The work is on the streets.”
“We cannot attempt to address this issue in a vacuum. It’s time we all wear one uniform,” de Blasio said, “Outreach NYC is our all-hands-on-deck approach to bring even more people in off the streets.”
Photo by Danielle Kogan