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Looking to address the urgent need for permanent, supportive housing in Midtown and beyond, Mayor Eric Adams, homeless outreach nonprofit Breaking Ground and the Partnership for New York City — a collection of over 60 Big Apple-based corporations — announced the launch of the Homeless Assistance Fund this morning.
The fund is a public-private initiative designed to expand mental health and housing services to New Yorkers in need. The deal was announced at a City Hall press conference Tuesday, attended by the Mayor and business leaders.
“To tackle the city’s homelessness issue, it will take a sustained multilayered, multi-stakeholder approach. Today’s announcement puts that approach into practice, with a robust public-private partnership and the enlistment of service providers on the ground,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom in a press release.
“When New Yorkers come together to do the right thing, we can make real progress,” added Mayor Adams. “In concert with the city’s unprecedented efforts and investments on the subways and in the streets, we can make sure that none of our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness fall through the cracks.”
The program, backed in part by over $8 million in pledged donations from corporate partners, aims to expand the in-person outreach by Breaking Ground staffers to unhoused New Yorkers sheltering in the city’s businesses and streets — with a specific focus on targeting high-density areas of concern like Midtown.
“We have a housing crisis in New York City, and it’s playing out in every corner of the city right now,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, chair of Manhattan Community Board 4. “The Mayor’s newly announced Homeless Assistance Fund appears to be a new tool in the kit to help secure housing for our unhoused neighbors, and that’s a good thing. Public-private partnerships have a good track record in New York City, and hopefully this new initiative to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers find secure housing is successful.” LeFrancois added: “MCB4 will certainly be paying attention.”
Said Steve Swartz, co-chair of the Partnership for New York City and CEO of Hearst Publishing located on 8th Avenue: “Supporting our communities and those in need is a cornerstone of our culture. This unique partnership provides assistance, care, safety, and compassion, and we are proud to be a part of it.”
Added Charlie Scharf, CEO of Hudson Yards-based Wells Fargo: “The dual health and economic crises caused by the pandemic has created myriad challenges for individuals and families, especially those, who through no fault of their own, have found themselves without a safe place to live. The city’s recovery is dependent on public-private partnerships, and we are proud to join the Partnership for New York City, Breaking Ground, and others in expanding support for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges.”
Midtown has been the focal point of the city’s homelessness crisis, with significant debate from both residents and city officials over the best ways to provide additional affordable housing in one of New York’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Several local hotels, including 10th Avenue’s Skyline Hotel and the Travel Inn, have been repurposed as temporary shelters for asylum-seeking refugees and unhoused New Yorkers, while other vacant accommodations like the Paramount Hotel — at one point in talks with Breaking Ground to become permanent supportive housing — will instead reopen to tourists in the fall.
More stories on the Issue of Homelessness in New York
Breaking Ground CEO Brenda Rosen said the organization was always in search of more permanent housing options to free up transitional and temporary housing facilities citywide. Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters have experienced a significant rise in occupancy and have struggled to abide by the city’s “right to shelter” law”, which Mayor Adams directly attributed to an influx of asylum seekers (the impact of which has since been disputed by on-the-ground site visits by the Legal Aid Society of New York).
At Tuesday’s press conference, Adams emphasized his role in the fight against homelessness, adding: “We have normalized people sleeping on the streets in our subway system, in our vestibules in bank ATM locations — we’ve normalized it. And In the first month in office when I went out and visited people in encampments, and talked to people in tents and realized that there were people who were facing mental health issues, and people who were down on their luck. — I refused to just ignore it, I refused to just walk by,” a statement that was disputed by local homeless advocacy groups who said that Adams has repeatedly ordered the NYPD and Department of Sanitation to throw away homeless New Yorkers’ personal belongings in encampment sweeps.
Adams went on to argue that the responsibility to support unhoused people, through programs like the Homeless Assistance Fund, was shared between city officials and residents. “We’ve ignored the problem as New Yorkers. Everyone wants to point to one administration — but as New Yorkers, we have normalized our fellow brothers and sisters sleeping on the street. And I’m not going to normalize that,” said the Mayor. “Everyone must be in the game. You can’t say, ‘Let’s house our homeless, get the homeless off the street, but just don’t put them on my street,’ — we can’t do that.”