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New York City Clears 239 Homeless Camps. Only 5 People Move to Shelters

(NY TIMES) Andy NewmanMichael Gold, April 2, 2022

In the subways, nearly 80 people a week accepted shelter over a four-week period, Mayor Adams said. Officials have not yet said how many stayed off the street.

Results so far are mixed on New York City’s effort to move homeless people out of the subway system and street encampments and into shelters, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday.

The mayor, who has called the initiatives crucial to the city’s recovery from the pandemic and to addressing perceptions that it had grown less safe, and his staff said that sanitation workers in partnership with the police had cleared 239 encampments in 12 days.

But only five people at those sites agreed to go to homeless shelters, a sign that most of them may remain outdoors and many were likely to rebuild their makeshift camps.

During the first four weeks of the push to clear the subways, nearly 80 people per week accepted placement in shelters, according to city figures — a jump from about 22 per week in January, before Mr. Adams put his subway safety plan into effect.

But city statistics for January showed that more than two-thirds of the people in the subway who agreed to go to shelters had already left them by the end of the month. City officials declined to immediately say how many of those newly referred to shelters under the city’s latest initiative remained there.

Mr. Adams cautioned New Yorkers that the programs will take time and that a social problem that has bedeviled generations of mayors would not be solved overnight.

“This is the first inning of a nine-inning game,” he said at a news conference at City Hall. “I’m not concerned about striking out. I’m not concerned about someone hitting our pitches. I’m concerned about the end of this game. And when this game is over, we’re going to have a city far better than the dysfunctional city that we’ve witnessed for far too long.”

His comments seemed aimed at ratcheting down expectations he set in February, when he said of the decades-long practice of people sleeping on trains and subway platforms, “Those days are over.” This month he suggested that he would have the city cleared of street encampments within two weeks.

Of the people on the street who did not agree to go to shelters, Mr. Adams said that “some went back home” to stay with loved ones and “some went to different locations.” Advocates have said that the cleanups often have the effect of simply pushing people and their possessions from one outdoor spot to another.

The State of New York City’s Subway

Meera Joshi, the deputy mayor for operations, who appeared with Mr. Adams, stressed that the encampment removals were “not a ‘one and done,’” in part because it takes “constant communication and trust and relationship” to persuade people leery of the shelter system to head inside.

Advocates for homeless people say that the city’s practice of sending out cleanup teams of police, sanitation workers and homeless-outreach workers and sometimes throwing away people’s belongings — something that the city denies occurs — breaks that trust.

Mr. Adams emphasized that the city was also in the process of opening 500 beds in specialized shelters that have fewer restrictions, more on-site services and in some cases more privacy than the traditional dormlike shelters that many people who live on the street and shelter in the subway reject.

Source: NY Times