The city Human Resources Administration has filled just 200 of the roughly 2,500 empty apartments for homeless New Yorkers in the month since The Post first revealed the existence of the funded-but-unused supportive housing units.
The slow pace seemingly affirms observations from advocates for the Big Apple’s homeless population, who say they’ve seen little evidence of change at HRA — or its parent agency, the Department of Social Services — in the weeks since the investigation was published was first published, despite promises from Mayor Eric Adams to tackle the issue.
“We have heard from from Department of Social Services officials that filling the vacant supportive housing units is a priority, but we have not yet seen major changes to the process for filling apartments,” said Jacquelyn Simone, the policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless.
Other campaigners for the city’s indigent agreed.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything different,” said Kathleen Cash, an advocate at the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project. “Our clients continue to languish on the streets and in shelter.”
Officials acknowledged that 2,287 apartments remain unoccupied, meaning that just 213 have been filled.
They would not provide other details in response to questions from The Post or even say if they’ve bolstered staffing or moved to automated the process that matches applications from needy New Yorkers with eligible units.
Sources previously revealed to The Post that the process is still done almost entirely by hand by an HRA division with a half-dozen or fewer overwhelmed staffers, creating a bureaucratic knot that allowed the apartments to sit empty.
The number of empty apartments is nearly identical to the roughly 2,400 New Yorkers found to be living on city streets or underground in the subway system during the most recent federal count in January 2021.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office claimed that progress had been made to fix the process and speed applications by more effectively tracking vacancies and HRA was “working to bring on additional staff.”
“We’re committed to cutting red tape and streamlining the process to get people housed,” said the representative, Kate Smart.
“But we can’t do this work alone,” she added. “We are working with our state and federal partners to flatten the eligibility requirements for units and make it easier to place clients wherever there are openings.”
Hizzoner has made tackling the twinned public safety and mental health crises above and below ground one of the signature efforts of his administration, launching new teams of police officers and social workers to try to encourage homeless New Yorkers to enter shelter and embarking on an aggressive campaign of sweeps to clear encampments.
However, the carrot and stick approach to try to convince the homeless to come inside appears to be having limited success.
Those living on the streets or subways have usually been through the Big Apple’s much-maligned shelter system before and describe encountering horrific living and safety conditions in the large barracks-style facilities where they are frequently referred.