LOWER MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Mayor Eric Adams said that hundreds of homeless encampments are being dismantled, and replaced with hundreds of beds in new shelters with a wide variety of medical and mental health services. That was Adams’s message on Wednesday, as he discussed his new plan to address the homeless crisis.
However, he also admitted that numbers show that getting homeless people to buy in to the changes may be challenging.
At a news conference early Wednesday afternoon, the mayor said that so far, 244 homeless encampments have been removed by teams made up of workers from the NYPD, as well as the departments of Sanitation, Homeless Services and Parks. Five sites that the city’s aware of remain, the mayor said.
After all of those encampments have been cleared, he added, so far only five homeless people have chosen to get off the street and into a shelter.
However, Adams said, that when his workers began stepped up efforts to move homeless people from the subways weeks before the encampment dismantlings, only about 30 people accepted the city’s invitation to move to shelters. Now, according to the mayor, more than 300 people have moved into shelters.
John Davis, who lives in an encampment at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, provides insight into why it’s a challenge for the city to get unhoused people to go indoors.
“I live this,” he said about his situation. “You don’t see no joke in my face or glitter in my eye like this is a joke. This is no joke.”
He said that the rats, the cold weather, and the risk of illness he faces living on the street is better than the physical danger that people face when they’re in traditional dorm-like shelters.
Mayor Adams agreed. At the news conference, surrounded by the commissioners of the NYPD, DSNY, Parks Department, and Office of Homeless Services, he said that the need is to create more of what are called safe haven shelters.
The mayor opened one yesterday, in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx. It was developed by the de Blasio Administration, and Adams’s plan aims to create at least 500 beds in similar facilities across the city. The new shelters have medical, and mental health services on site.
The mayor displayed fliers that workers and volunteers will start handing out to homeless people encouraging to go to the new safe haven shelters.
They apparently have one noteworthy shortcoming: each room has up to four beds.
Even though the new facilities are less strict about curfews, and guarantee a shower daily, and provide other services, Davis, the man who lives in the encampment at the Manhattan Bridge, said that for him, and other homeless people like him, private, single rooms are what’s needed to get them off the street.
“No doubt. No doubt,” he said, adding that with a private room, “I don’t have to lose sleep.”
Jacquelyn Simone, the policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, agreed.
“They want a room of their own,” she said, adding that the city has a large supply of such rooms, but has yet to do anything about it.
Her point is actually something that they mayor seemed to agree with.
He said that he wants to cut through the red tape that Simone described, and get more homeless people into more private accomodations.
“We have almost 2,000 housing units [and] apartments that are empty,” he said on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s unacceptable. We’re gonna roll out how we’re going to fix that.”
He gave no timeline for when changes might be made.