By order of Mayor Eric Adams, all homeless encampments (estimated to be 150) are to be cleared away by first week of April. A multi-city-agency force made up of the NYPD, NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), NYC Department of Social Services (DSS), and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) have been tasked with outreach that gives 24-hour notice to an encampment that is to be taken down and then the removal of the encampment the next day.
On March 28, during unseasonably below freezing temperatures, homeless people living under the BQE south of Manhattan Avenue stood by as their mattresses were tossed into garbage trucks along with their shelters or other belongings they didn’t have the wherewithal to carry away. Several had been living in this location for two years. NYC HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams) was also on the scene.
In a New York Times interview published on March 25, 2022, Adams said, “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 added, “We can’t stop an individual from sleeping on the street based on law, and we’re not going to violate that law, but you can’t build a miniature house made out of cardboard on the streets. That’s inhumane.”
That the first of the homeless encampment sweeps took place when temperatures were in the upper 20’s F, is an interesting qualifier to how Adams’ defines inhumane. A common reason homeless individuals give for choosing to live on the street is they feel safer on the street than in shelters. At a little after 9 a.m. on March 29, I saw a noticeably cold homeless man wrapped in a sleeping bag heading toward a church two blocks from the BQE. The temperature had yet to reach 30F. In the early evening on April 1, there were a group of four unhoused individuals with three dogs and a cat camping out on Bedford Avenue by North 5th Street. Adams’s promise of “healthy living conditions with wraparound services” will be put to the test.
Mayor Adams announced on March 30 that the initial portion of his enhanced effort to connect homeless New Yorkers with social services had been completed. The multi-agency task force, visited 244 locations and completed cleanup of 239. The day prior 350 beds in low-barrier programs were open, part of the 500 promised in his Subway Safety Plan. Low-barrier is tailored for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness who may be resistant to accepting or who may not be best served by other services, including traditional transitional housing settings.
When asked how many of the displaced received social services, Adams said, “[W]e had five people that accepted services.” He offered this context, “Week one, when we did the transit initiative, we had only 22 people that accepted service. Up to date, we have over 300 and something people who have accepted our services. We are rebuilding trust in the city. We’re going to make sure it’s done right. I know we can do it right.”