New Yorkers Don’t Think the City Is Doing Enough to Help the Homeless

A homeless person in Penn Station. (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images)

A homeless person in Penn Station. (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images)

Despite a slew of recent policies aimed at helping the homeless, New Yorkers think that Bill de Blasio isn’t doing enough, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters disapprove of Mr. de Blasio’s handling of poverty and homelessness by a margin of 55 percent to 36 percent, the poll found—and 73 percent of voters polled said the city is doing too little to help homeless people.

The issue has dominated headlines for weeks, and that is reflected in the poll, in which 93 percent of voters polled called the homelessness problem either “very serious” or “somewhat serious,” with 66 percent choosing with the “very serious option.”

The increase of the homeless population in city shelters and, more visibly, on city streets has dogged Mr. de Blasio politically for months. At first he insisted it was a matter of “perception,” fueled by New York Post covers depicting a homeless man urinating in the street or television news stories about a man bathing in a public fountain. But eventually Mr. de Blasio shifted his rhetoric, saying he’d failed to properly communicate about the ongoing problem.

“We agree that our city’s homeless families and individuals deserve more prevention, shelter exit, and street outreach options, and that’s why we’ve made unprecedented commitments to ensure New York City has the most comprehensive program to prevent and reduce homelessness in the country,” said Ishanee Parikh, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio. “We continue to evaluate opportunities to more effectively and efficiently get our city’s homeless population the services and resources they deserve.”

Late last year, the abrupt resignation of former Department of Homelessness Commissioner Gilbert Taylor seemed to jumpstart a series of new initiatives, rolled out publicly by either Mr. de Blasio or Human Resources Commissioner Steven Banks, who has taken on a much more visible role in recent weeks and is leading DHS in Mr. Taylor’s absence. In December, Mr. de Blasio rolled out Home-Stat, a plan to provide each person living on the city’s streets with a case worker, among other outreach programs, plans to build supportive housing, and efforts aimed at cleaning up the city’s homeless shelters.

But as Mr. de Blasio began to address the issue publicly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo jumped into the fray, criticizing Mr. de Blasio’s ability to manage the problem, saying people were staying on the streets due to the poor and dangerous conditions in city shelters, and rolling out his own plans to provide oversight.

In keeping with a long-standing racial gap in Mr. de Blasio’s poll numbers, the only party, gender, racial, borough or age group to give Mr. de Blasio a positive rating on his handling of poverty and homelessness were black voters, of whom 52 percent approved and 27 percent disapproved.

Despite the ongoing focus on quality of life in New York City, just 19 percent of voters deemed quality of life here poor or very poor. Most, 42 percent, landed on fair. Just 8 percent found the quality of life very good, but 30 percent reported it was good.

Still, 46 percent of voters say quality of life has gotten worse over the last few years—a perception Mr. de Blasio has struggled to turn around, even as he emphasizes lower levels of crime and traffic fatalities.

But the polls haven’t been all bad for Mr. de Blasio this week. After months of sagging numbers, his job approval jumped five points in a poll released yesterday, to 50 percent—his highest ranking in more than a year.