The Department of Homeless Services commissioner abruptly announced his resignation yesterday as Mayor de Blasio announced plans to conduct a "comprehensive operational review" of the city's approach to an intractable homelessness crisis. Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, who previously served as a top official at the Administration for Children’s Services during the Bloomberg administration, was appointed by de Blasio in January 2014.

De Blasio said yesterday that Taylor had expressed "a desire to seek other opportunities." He will remain on the city payroll as an adviser during the next few months as the administration looks at how to restructure the agency. "After we tried a number of changes and reforms, we didn’t feel we were getting as much seamlessness and as much streamlining as we needed,” de Blasio told reporters. “We thought it was time to step back and look at the structures that are 20 years old." The mayor added that the city is facing "a different kind of homelessness [that is] more and more about economic reality."

Taylor's resignation comes three months after the abrupt resignation of deputy mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a widely respected and experienced progressive who had overseen the DHS and other social service agencies. Her resignation came at the peak of a summer-long tabloid assault against de Blasio over the city's homeless crisis, which the mayor initially downplayed.

The number of people in DHS shelters, most of them families and children, has risen to more than 57,000 [pdf] from about 35,000 eight years ago (and down from a peak of 59,000 over the summer). It's difficult to accurately count the number of homeless living on the streets (or distinguish them from panhandlers who have places to stay), but the mayor estimates it's somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000. These numbers also fluctuate with the seasons (or what we used to call seasons).

Homelessness has been increasing in NYC since at least 2011, when Governor Cuomo (followed by Mayor Bloomberg) eliminated funding for the rental assistance program Advantage. NYC is legally required to provide shelter for the homeless, and the cost continues to skyrocket.

The NYC Department of Homeless Services was created 22 years ago by then-Mayor David Dinkins, in part as a response to legal pressure brought by Steve Banks of the Legal Aid Society's Homeless Family Rights Project. Banks is now de Blasio's Human Resources Administration Commissioner, and yesterday the mayor announced that he would be in charge of the DHS overhaul, along with First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Their objective, according to de Blasio, is to make sure services to the homeless are administered "as efficiently and effectively as possible." From the announcement:

Changes in structure will begin almost immediately. Services for homeless individuals have historically been delivered through a number of agencies, especially the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration. Areas that will likely receive specific examination for improvement and modernization include how contracting with non-profits is performed in the agencies; the sharing of functions across agencies; the coordination of client service delivery, and program development efforts.

De Blasio also thanked Commissioner Taylor "for his tireless work and great effort over the past two years. In great part because of his commitment and hard work, we were able to help over 22,000 people move out of shelter and into permanent housing, lay the groundwork for the production of 15,000 new units of supportive housing, and serve over 91,000 people with preventative services such as legal help and rent assistance."