Reaching out to the homeless, one at a time

Image 1 of 2

New York City's Department of Homeless Services was in the Bronx Tuesday, helping those who need a place to stay.

This is the kind of area that makes a perfect homeless encampment and shooting gallery for drug abusers. But it's totally cleaned out. Fox 5 got exclusive access to the DHS street outreach team to see how they're trying to change conditions one life at a time.

It's was chilly and rainy day. One homeless man wrapped himself in plastic trash bags to ward off the weather. Bronxworks outreach workers Juan Rivera and Jose Medina, whose organization is contracted by DHS, try to convince him to accept help. If he is picked up off the street and his core issues not addressed, he'll just be back or suffer from exposure.

Homeless people nearby set up under the Third Avenue Bridge. There's a lot more to getting them into housing than just physically moving them indoors.

A common problem for many in the encampments is substance abuse, said one homeless man who wanted us to protect his identity. He said he is just about ready to accept the team's help.

The DHS outreach team took us to a location they cleaned up under the Bruckner Expressway. The city cleaned out 10 tons of debris and more than 400 needles. A new solid wall was put up and one person placed in housing.

The outreach teams try to engage with the people on the streets and earn their trust. It's a slow process, but the only way they believe will yield long lasting results.

The outreach teams are constantly on the move, and do repeat checkups on the encampments they've cleared out to make sure people don't come back. There are no shortcuts. It's really one life at a time.