Bloomberg Shuffles Homeless Commissioners

Robert Hess

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: A homeless man panhandles October 26, 2009 in New York City. In a recently released report by the advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless it was revealed that the numbers of homeless people using New York City shelters each night has reached an all time high. Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office eight years ago there has been a 45 percent increase in shelter use with over 39,000 homeless people, including 10,000 homeless families, checking in to city shelters every evening. The group also said that 2009 has turned out to be 'the worst on record for New York City homelessness since the Great Depression. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    Mayor Bloomberg is replacing his commissioner for homeless services, NBCNewYork.com has learned.  The Mayor is expected to announce the departure of Robert Hess, who served as commissioner during Bloomberg's second term, according to sources familiar with the changes.

       The past four years have not been good for homeless services.  The administration has fallen short of its ambitious goals of reducing homelessness and instead, the number of families in shelter and homeless people living on the streets has increased.  Last month city officials announced that their own survey had found a spike since last year in the number of homeless people living on the streets. However, Hess is credited with bringing the overall number of street homeless down 30 precent since he took over.

    And sources say the Department of Homeless Services has continued to struggle with managing the family shelter system which has bedeviled homeless commissioners for decades.   The number of families applyling for homeless shelter has doubled during the last three years.

    Insiders have predicted in recent months that Hess would be one of the commissioners most likely to leave the administration in the third term, though some blame the bad economy and trimmed down NYC budget for the difficulty making process in recent years.  Hess, who successfully reduced homelessness in Philadelphia before moving to New York in 2006, worked to make NYC's homeless shelters more appealing to the many drug addicted and mentally ill street homeless who are extremely difficult to lure indoors.   The administration has stepped up outreach and homelessness prevention services but the results have been somewhat frustrating.

    Sources say Hess will be replaced by Seth Diamond, a deputy commissioner at the NYC Human Resources Administration with many years of experience in City government.  Diamond has been in charge of reforming the welfare system's efforts to move people from welfare to work.