Friday, May 25th, 2012 - 13:41
The New York City Department of Homeless Services oversees
one of the most comprehensive shelter systems in the
nation, bringing real support to homeless New Yorkers when
they need it most.
Government at all levels is operating in an era of fiscal austerity. The revenues may be falling, but demand for critical services continues. Within this new reality, government executives are confronted with very difficult choices that go to the heart of effective public management. As we continue to engage government executives who are changing the way government does business, Seth Diamond, commissioner,
New York City Department of Homeless Services, joined me on The Business of Government Hour.
The New York City Department of Homeless Services oversees one of the most comprehensive shelter systems in the nation, bringing real support to homeless New Yorkers when they need it most. While providing shelter and services to those in need is critical, the city has sought to go beyond managing homelessness to ending it, especially chronic homelessness; creating viable permit solutions, enhancing support systems, and ultimately transitioning those seeking assistance from shelters to self-sufficiency. What is New
York City doing to prevent chronic homelessness? How is the city working to transition homeless New Yorkers from shelters to self-sufficiency? How is the city using commonsense approaches to make a difference where it counts? Seth Diamond provides his insights into these questions and so much more. The following is an edited excerpt from our conversation.
Before we delve into specific initiatives, would you give us an overview of the history and mission of New York City’s Department of Homeless Services?
Seth Diamond: It is a relatively new agency in New York City terms, having been around since about the mid-1990s, so almost 20 years.
Our mission is to overcome homelessness in New York City. DHS prevents homelessness wherever possible and provides short-term emergency shelter and re-housing support whenever needed. These goals are best achieved through partnerships with those we serve, public agencies, and the business and nonprofit communities. The largest part, and perhaps the most well-known, is the city’s shelter system. Working with 90 or so not-for-profit agencies, we administer shelter in about 250 locations throughout New York City. The department has about an $800 million budget. Almost 90% of that goes to not-forprofit providers who provide the services and run the shelters, and then the rest goes to the government staff, which totals about 2,000. On a typical night, there are about 40,000 New Yorkers with no other alternatives but to stay in one of our shelters—a combination of single adults (i.e., meaning people with no children) as well as families. We have shelters in almost every neighborhood in New York, but for most New Yorkers they’re not aware that there’s a shelter in their community. I think that’s a tribute to the not for profit organizations we work with and the people of the Department of Homeless Services. We blend into communities and work effectively with them. We are a partner in the neighborhoods we serve.