Capital New York:
The lead up to the “unprecedented” announcement Mayor Bill de Blasio would make yesterday was quite clear, at least according to two daily newspapers: the Democratic mayor had a plan to tackle homelessness.
Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Mr. de Blasio’s $22 million initiative would specifically aid the rising number of homeless people.
“On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to appear with his wife, Chirlane McCray, to announce a $22 million mental health initiative that his administration says will aid the homeless,” the Times reported.
But reporters were surprised to learn on Thursday that the $22 million plan was not specifically about the homeless problem. Mr. de Blasio and a cadre of city officials insisted at a City Hall media roundtable that the initiative would be for helping a small subset of the general population: violent mentally ill people who need treatment. Whether they have a roof over their heads or not wasn’t the point, Mr. de Blasio said.
“Some in the media have tried to portray this as about homeless first and foremost. No, it is about people who have mental health challenges and are prone to violence,” Mr. de Blasio said. “They are a concern to all of us, whether they live in an apartment building, a private home, a shelter, or on the street.”
It was an odd statement coming off the heels of two preview stories which reported Mr. de Blasio clearly wanted to address homelessness, first and foremost. “Mayor Plans New Homeless Initiative,” read a Journal headline from Wednesday. “De Blasio, Facing Criticism, Is Taking On Homelessness With $22 Million Initiative,” blared a Times headline on the same day.
So what happened? It’s not really clear. A de Blasio spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment for this story. The announcement of the mental health initiative, which will send experts to New York City’s homeless shelters and to other places to treat mentally ill people who exhibit violent behavior, was delayed a day. The original plan had been to roll out the initiative on Wednesday.