Task Force Disrupts Homeless, Removes 239 Encampments in Less Than Two Weeks
On March 18th, now controversial Mayor Eric Adams did a brief interview featured in the NY Times in which he announced his administration’s plan to tackle the city’s out-of-control homeless problem, starting with the subway system and parts of Lower Manhattan. When asked, he stated his intention to accomplish this oft-promised feat was within a seemingly impossible time frame of just two weeks – but declined to provide further details on how he planned to handle this huge undertaking. It was noted by some that a lot of planning, organization, cooperation of several agencies, and coordination of countless people would need to happen, and there was nothing like that discussed.
Yet, less than two weeks from the date of that announcement, an update on the situation on Wednesday revealed that extensive and meticulous planning had [obviously] indeed taken place – just not within the usual construct. Ahead of schedule, it was reported yesterday that Adams’ goal had largely been achieved. His task force located 244 homeless encampments within a specific target area and had already cleared 239 of them yesterday. He cautions New Yorkers not to expect an overnight fix, as this was just the first phase of a multifaceted plan, and the problem is long-standing and complex. However, he did give assurances that he would succeed, whereas previous administrations had failed. He pledged his commitment to help heal the city, post-pandemic, and restore its good reputation. Part of that pledge is dismantling and cleaning up these encampments, both on our streets, and in our subways, Adams said.
The move came due in part to a recent spike in crime in NYC, especially in the subway system, and violent crime, in particular, has been a topic of much debate. In February of this year, there were 8 attacks in the subway system, in one weekend alone. This sparked fear in the public over riding the public transit system once again, for fear of being targeted by homeless criminals. And then the recent murder of Michelle Go by a mentally ill homeless man in the subway didn’t help matters for the Mayor. Martial Simon was an angry man with schizophrenia and did not know Go, who for no apparent reason, shoved her in front of a train where she died instantly. These crimes have become an area of focus for Adams, a former transit cop.
Summary of Steps Taken
Despite raised eyebrows, amidst controversy over multiple issues that have challenged the new Mayor, Eric Adams seems to be determined to make progress in one of NYC’s most critical areas – the estimated 50K+ homeless population. Here are some of the important recent developments:
- Mayor Adams opened Morris Avenue Safe Haven, a new 80-bed shelter in the Bronx with special rules and privacy in an effort to tempt the homeless into staying. This is part of a plan already in action, with 350 beds already opened out of a 500-bed goal, in the new Safe Haven facilities. These facilities also provide full-service medical primary care and mental health counseling.
- Task Force – Adams put together a task force containing members from the Department of Social Services, the Sanitation Department, the Parks Department and the Police Department. They perform coordinated “sweeps” or “cleanups” in which they follow a series of steps (see below). 133 cleanups were carried out in January 2022.
- Homeless encampments are identified in a specific target area first, then police officers give each encampment a 24-hour notice. Social Services outreach workers speak to the homeless and offer them housing options, letting them know where they can go for help.
- Taskforce members return the next day, and if they have to dismantle and remove the encampment, they give the owner a voucher to claim their things when they find another place to stay. Again they are given information on where they can go. Adams has already agreed that you can’t force someone to go but said additionally, you can’t build a cardboard house on the streets of the city, either.
- Results are “mixed” so far – Adams said himself, in Wednesday’s update. Only 5 people in the roughly 240 camps removed took city officials up on the shelter option. However, Adams said over 300 people have taken the option since the first announcement in February was made about removing the homeless population from NYC streets and subway systems.
Homelessness ~ A Complex Issue
Of course, we all know that homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue, and NYC has a major challenge ahead for Mayor Adams and other leadership, in gaining some semblance of control over the situation. For now, it seems the solution is just a temporary measure that isn’t very effective. As a society, it becomes an area we try to ignore, for lack of a better solution. But we all find out sooner or later that ignoring the problem does not make it go away. In fact, typically it keeps growing until it’s completely out of control. Which is what has happened, here in NYC. Adams seems to be determined to make headway with the problem and has a plan to achieve his goals. Only time will tell.
Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]