New Head of HHS: 'Getting People Housed' Huge Priority

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A veteran of New York City agencies since the Koch administration, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli has been appointed the deputy mayor for health and human services by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. 

When Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced her appointment, he said a "growing homeless population will not happen on our watch."

Barrios-Paoli will oversee city agencies charged with housing the homeless, expanding community health clinics, and cutting red tape in social services. 

"I've spent the bulk of my career trying to work on behalf of the poor," she said at a press conference Thursday. "It is incredibly exciting for me to be in an administration that really makes that a central tenet." She added that the real challenge for the city will be "to get people housed and stay housed."

Barrios-Paoli replaces Linda Gibbs, who held the position for eight years.

Prior to her appointment as Deputy Mayor, Gibbs was the Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services. But that doesn't mean she always saw eye to eye with the Bloomberg Administration, especially the decision to make cuts to some homeless services programs in 2011.

"I would have never cut prevention," she said. "I shared my thinking with other deputy mayors and whoever would listen."

Mayor-elect de Blasio also defended his record trying to coax the Administration to keep homeless prevention policies in place.

"At the time I tried publicly and privately to stop that from happening, I tried to see if there was some way to save homelessness prevention strategies," said de Blasio. But it didn't work.

The Bloomberg Administration had promised to cut homelessness figures by two-thirds, but instead there has been an increase in the number of families living in shelters.

Barrios-Paoli has managed five city agencies under three previous mayors. She's credited with innovative reforms including the opening of senior centers serving the visually-impaired and LGBT populations.

In her non-profit work, she served as president and CEO of Safe Space NYC, an organization which serves children and families facing issues such as poverty, abuse and medical conditions.