Today’s Read: How to Help Homeless People Leave the Streets

This summer, New Yorkers have been asking how to help the large number of people sleeping on the streets. As part of the City’s response, the NYPD has reportedly started mapping encampments of homeless people and coordinating efforts with the Department of Homeless Services.

While better coordination between City agencies is always a good thing, regressing to Giuliani-era approaches of treating homelessness as a “quality of life” issue affecting wealthier New Yorkers is simply counterproductive.

Instead, both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo must fully invest in long-term, housing-based solutions to homelessness so that these vulnerable New Yorkers have a path off the streets and out of shelters. There is already a severe shortage of supportive housing units – permanent affordable housing with on-site services for people with mental illness and other special needs. This model has been proven to break the cycle of chronic homelessness and keep people stably housed, but there is only one supportive unit available for every six eligible applicants in NYC. Unless the City and the State work together to fund 30,000 units of supportive housing in the city (and another 5,000 elsewhere in the state) over the next 10 years, we will continue to see thousands of our neighbors suffering on the streets and in crowded shelters.

Mary Brosnahan, the Coalition’s President and CEO, discussed this research-backed solution with CBS2’s Dick Brennan:

“All this stuff about the front end with the cops, we can debate that or not, but it’s not going to make a real difference,” said Mary Brosnahan, president and chief executive officer of the Coalition for the Homeless.

“The only thing that’s really going to make a difference is if (Gov.) Andrew Cuomo ponies up some money with Bill De Blasio to build housing with on-site support services. We need 30,000 units of supportive housing. That will get homeless people with mental illness off the streets.”

Some 40 percent of homeless people are suffering from mental illness or some kind of substance abuse.

Brosnahan said only housing with support services would stabilize them.