In an interview with the New York Times on Friday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams had announced a city-wide initiative to get rid of homeless encampments from streets and parks. This is in addition to his “subway safety” plan announced last month, saying that people are not allowed to sleep on subway cars. More than 8.3 million people in New York City identify as homeless. While initiatives like subway safety are supposed to invest millions into housing and professionals to assist the mentally ill, where are the homeless supposed to go?
Mayor Adams stated the following:
“We’re going to rid the encampments off our street and we’re going to place people in healthy living conditions with wraparound services,” he told the Times. “I’m telling my city agencies to do an analysis block by block, district by district, identify where the encampments are, then execute a plan to give services to the people who are in the encampments, then to dismantle those encampments.”
“We can’t stop an individual from sleeping on the street based on law, and we’re not going to violate that law,” he said. “But you can’t build a miniature house made out of cardboard on the streets. That’s inhumane.”
The Independent Budget Office (IBO) has looked at the proposed budget by the Adams administration and stated a need for more resources–particularly when it comes to funding for shelters. It’s also worth noting that Adams proposed budget sets aside $2.15 billion in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) spending for the fiscal year 2023, down from around $2.8 billion this year. Some of this is due to COVID-funding at the federal level phasing out. IBO says NYC will need to funnel at least $200 million in funding and $260 million annually beginning in 2024.
Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged new drop-in centers, including 140 new Safe Haven and 350 new stabilization places, as a part of the subway initiative. However, there is no funding for this in the preliminary budget.
The policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, Jacquelyn Simone, spoke about these new initiatives and how harmful they can be.
“Sweeps and policing are not the answers to unsheltered homelessness,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless. “Without expanding access to the types of shelters and housing people want and need, Mayor Adams’ latest initiative will fail to address the reasons people sleep on the streets and will harm an already vulnerable community.”
The state of New York City’s shelters has been under scrutiny. It is reported that only 18 out of 41 facilities offer mental health services, and nine of the city’s 247 shelters for families with children offer mental health services on-site. Conditions of these shelters have been cited to be terrible with violence and drug usage. There is also an increasing problem of murders committed against the homeless in New York. As the crackdown on homelessness goes on, it seems to me that there should be an equal emphasis on assisting in helping people have a place to stay and get the resources they need.