Just over four years ago, newly elected public advocate Bill de Blasio delivered a scathing criticism of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies on homelessness in New York City: “I’ve never heard a full acknowledgment of the failure of the strategy, and I don’t know how you can make something better if you don’t acknowledge that it hasn’t worked.” However, between de Blasio’s continuation of previous policies and rising homeless rates, it appears that the mayor has ignored his own advice. De Blasio’s recent actions speak far louder than his words.
Project Reconnect, one of the various Bloomberg-era homelessness policies that de Blasio once attacked, is still in practice by the current mayoral administration. The project, founded in 2007, pays for the one-way transportation of the city’s homeless elsewhere if they can prove they have relatives they can stay with at their destination. In Bloomberg’s final year as mayor, the Department of Homeless Services paid for the removal of 2,208 homeless residents. De Blasio is on track to match Bloomberg’s removal rates, having funded the departure of 1,412 homeless people since taking office. The once proudly progressive candidate has now angered various local leaders, including community advocate and unsuccessful State Senate candidate Luis Tejada. Speaking to the New York Post, Tejada said he “expected more from [de Blasio]. This is a big surprise.”
Despite the use of Bloomberg’s policies in an effort to lower the population of the homeless, the exact opposite has occurred. Recent reports show that homelessness is actually on the rise, increasing 6 percent, to 54,754 people, since de Blasio took office. De Blasio has attempted to shift the blame onto the Bloomberg administration, but the continued rise in homelessness flies in the face of various new shelters, subsidy programs and affordable housing initiatives enacted under de Blasio.
The increasing number of homeless persons in light of new shelters not only demonstrates the early failures of de Blasio’s policies, but also shows how he has strayed from the left-wing principles he proudly espoused during the mayoral election. Should de Blasio continue to silently backtrack on the various promises of his campaign, he faces certain backlash from his supporters. Many enthusiastic progressive voters who came out to give him 73 percent of the vote in his electoral landslide last year may just stay home for the night when de Blasio is up for re-election in 2017.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 24 print issue. Email Johnpaul Baratta at [email protected]