Head of New York City Department of Homeless Services Steps Down Amid Overhaul

Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor is stepping down as the city plans an overhaul of the beleaguered agency, officials said Tuesday.

Taylor has presided over the troubled department since the beginning of the de Blasio administration.

Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks and Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris will preside over a full-scale restructuring of the Department of Homeless Services in the coming months, the mayor's office said.

Taylor will move to City Hall in an advisory role to support the reorganization effort, effective Jan. 1.

Mayor de Blasio said Taylor came to him a few weeks ago and said it was time for him to leave. He praised the work Taylor has done with the city, saying the department has "became a much better agency under Gil Taylor," but told NBC 4 New York people know when it's time to move on.  

Homelessness has become a sore spot for Mayor de Blasio as New Yorkers complain about an increase in homeless on the streets and declining quality of life.

Nearly 58,000 people are living in New York's homeless shelters, according to statistics released by the city this week. More than 23,000 of them are children. An additional 3,000 or so people are estimated to be living on the city's streets. The numbers are down slightly from a peak last winter but still up from when de Blasio took office. His critics have seized upon the rise as evidence that the mayor's liberal policies are failing those who need the most help.

De Blasio has added billions of dollars to the homelessness budget, boosting prevention and creating a new rental assistance program, but moving people out of shelters has proved to be a daunting task.

“Tackling homelessness is an urgent priority – and that’s why we have invested additional resources and launched innovative new initiatives to place homeless individuals and families into permanent housing, and to prevent homelessness in the first place,” de Blasio said in a statement.

"The reinforcements are coming," he added.

The city's work to combat homelessness over the last two years includes creating and implementing new rental assistance programs and exit pathways, creating a squad to make repairs at shelters, expanding homelessness prevention services and outreach and cleaning up encampments.

This is the second recent high-profile departure of an official overseeing homelessness. Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios Paoli quit her job in August. Paoli colleagues said she had been frustrated with obstacles to solving the homeless crisis and her inability to get meetings with the mayor.

A person briefed on the situation tells NBC 4 New York City Hall has been helping Taylor find a new job. He previously worked for the Administration for Children’s Services.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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