Mayor Eric Adams’s executive budget plan for the coming year will include $171 million in funding for alternatives to conventional homeless shelters, officials said Sunday.
The money will help pay for 1,400 beds in smaller facilities that are better suited to the needs of unsheltered New Yorkers, many of whom opt to sleep on the streets rather than in crowded and restrictive communal settings. It will also fund three new drop-in centers, where unhoused New Yorkers can get a hot meal, take a shower, wash their clothes and meet with counselors and case managers.
The city will also invest at least the same amount each year going forward, Adams said.
“This is not one and done,” Adams said at a press conference Sunday morning. “This is baseline.”
The announcement comes after calls from advocates and lawmakers to invest in homeless services — and in the midst of a controversial program to kick unsheltered New Yorkers out of their street encampments and destroy their belongings in hopes of driving them to shelters. The New York Police Department told Gothamist earlier this month it had broken down more than 300 of the encampments as of April 6th. But it was unclear how many of those sleeping on the streets have opted to come indoors.
Unhoused New Yorkers and their advocates have said that sleeping on the street, or in the subway, may often be preferable to conventional homeless shelters, which have restrictive curfews and can feel unsafe.
Advocates have long called for smaller shelters with fewer rules. But the supply of safe havens and single-occupancy stabilization beds is far outstripped by the demand. The Coalition for the Homeless reported that there are only about 2,500 beds in these shelter alternatives and that they’re almost always occupied, leaving thousands more to sleep outdoors.
Executive Director at Coalition for the Homeless Dave Giffen told Gothamist Sunday that his group applauded the financial commitment from the mayor, but still regarded it as just a "small partial step" in the right direction.
"In the absence of a comprehensive plan that has the creation of vastly more permanent affordable and supportive housing at its core, and that respects the dignity of all New Yorkers without homes, these piecemeal efforts are destined to do nothing more than kick the can down the road," he said. "[Adams] must immediately stop his shameful and counterproductive tactic of deploying police officers and sanitation workers to sweep homeless encampments out of sight. Not only does this practice directly contradict CDC guidance aimed at protecting the health of our community, it drives those who are most in need further into the margins of our city and makes it even harder for trained outreach teams to connect them with the low-barrier shelters, services, and permanent housing they want and need."
Prior to Sunday’s announcement, Adams had already pledged to create another 500 alternative shelter beds, some of which had been planned by the previous administration. A new safe haven in the Bronx, opened in late March, has 80 such beds, although sources told Gothamist that the rooms are more densely packed than expected for this type of shelter.
The new funding would bring the total number of stabilization and safe haven beds to more than 4,000.
Lawmakers praised the funding decision, which was part of their response to the mayor’s preliminary budget. New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called the move “a major step forward” and highlighted the importance of affordable housing as well as shelter beds. The City Council has also asked for more funding for housing, including rental vouchers, hotel conversions and supportive housing for recently incarcerated New Yorkers.
The mayor will release his 2023 executive budget on Tuesday during an address at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.
This story was updated to include a comment from the Coalition for the Homeless.