- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - As the city gears up a multibillion-dollar push to house the homeless, officials are showcasing plans to turn an empty South Bronx lot into apartments enhanced with help for residents contending with mental illness.

City first lady Chirlane McCray joined in Tuesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking for Lynn’s Place, an example of what’s known as supportive housing, or apartments with counseling, health and other social services provided right in the building.

Striving to tackle a homelessness problem that has become increasingly pronounced in recent years, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in November a $2.6 billion plan to create 15,000 supportive housing apartments. Lynn’s Place, on a residential street near a small park, will feature 42 apartments for formerly homeless mentally ill people, plus about two dozen apartments for other low-income people.

“With the (start) of Lynn’s Place, we are one step closer to making sure every New Yorker who needs help can get help, no matter how serious their situation,” McCray said.

New York City and various organizations are financing the more than $25 million project, spearheaded by Unique People Services, a nonprofit group that runs supportive housing programs.



Currently, the city has about 32,000 supportive housing apartments. Advocates applaud such housing as a way to help mentally ill, addicted and disabled homeless people build stable lives while reducing more expensive shelter stays, hospitalizations and incarceration.

“Not only do we think it’s the right thing to do, but … this is the enlightened thing to do,” de Blasio said when he announced his supportive housing plan.

Nearly 58,000 people spent Sunday night in the city’s homeless shelters, up about 13 percent from the same night two years ago, and possibly thousands more spent the night on the streets. New York’s homeless population - the biggest of any city in the U.S., according to federal data - hovered under 25,000 in the 1990s but began climbing after 2000.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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