Homelessness

NYC Business Group Gives $8 Million to Help City Deal With Homelessness Problem

A survey of the business group's members showed that street homelessness was a main reason why people aren't coming back to the office

Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Private companies are pitching in millions of dollars to help the homeless, and to help their businesses deal with the homeless.

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams announced what he called a new "public-private partnership" to boost the number of outreach workers in midtown, downtown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Over the past eight weeks, 61 businesses have chipped in a total of $8 million and counting.

New York City spends $2 billion a year on homelessness, so why are businesses now touting an additional $8 million?

Not only because of their concern for the suffering of the homeless and mentally ill adults near their workplaces, but because the City's existing homeless outreach contract only allows workers to engage the homeless in public areas like streets and sidewalks, according to Kathryn Wylde of the New York City Partnership, the business group that raised the money.

That means if a homeless person is camping out in a restaurant or retail establishment, or lying on the ground at a private plaza on Park Avenue or Metrotech, outreach workers are not authorized to approach them.

"We raised this money in eight weeks because businesses have had their employees complaining to them about their own fears, and also concerns about what's happening to homeless people," Wylde said in an interview with NBC New York, adding that businesses don't want to be in the position where their only option is to call police. "Our member companies have a million employees in the city and they have felt helpless in the face of terrible conditions and people suffering."

Wylde acknowledges that the homeless presence in ATMs and food establishments has been one of several factors resulting in businesses closing up shop. She also said a survey of the group's members showed that street homelessness was a main reason why people aren't coming back to the office. 

The $8 million will being poured into a separate, private contract between the Partnership Foundation and the non-profit Breaking Ground. Under the terms of the contract, in addition to engaging homeless and mentally ill individuals, the non profit will train employees on interacting with the homeless, and collect data on their experience linking clients to shelter or psychiatric care.

The organizer of the initiative tells NBC New York security guards and other employees "have felt helpless in the face of terrible conditions and people suffering."

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