NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A group of homeless men were gathered on a mattress on Wyckoff Street in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon. Like many of the city's homeless, they have set-up camp outside, refusing to go inside to one of the city shelters.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Wednesday that the city has made improving shelter conditions a priority.
"We're going to increase, constantly, our efforts to inspect, to make repairs, and to remove from the inventory entirely, buildings that shouldn't be there or providers that shouldn't be there," Mayor de Blasio says.
At the end of last year, the comptroller issued a scathing audit of city shelters. It showed a majority were filthy and dangerous. Since then the mayor has instituted several programs including Home-Stat.
The nonprofit Breaking Ground is part of that program. It hosted a training session for new outreach workers on Wednesday. The group is under contract with the city's Department of Homeless Services and has hired more than 140 new workers.
Julian Fitzgerald started with the program three weeks ago.
"Engaging individuals, these homeless individuals, is a very profound work," Fitzgerald says. "Society as a whole, we've neglected, we shunned, ignored, even abused these individuals.
On Wednesday, he and the others were learning more about how to deal with the mentally ill homeless on the streets. He says finds the work extremely rewarding.
"They deserved to be loved, helped, protected, respected," Fitzgerald says.
The nonprofit Breaking Ground has the ultimate goal of getting homeless families off the streets. Since 1990, Breaking Ground has helped more than 12,000 people move into permanent housing.