New York mayor vows to rid the city of homeless encampments in two weeks

by mcardinal

Marion Bae, FISM News


As COVID-19 restrictions ease nationwide, New York Mayor Eric Adams has turned his sights towards another public health and safety crisis, New York’s homelessness problem.

Adams announced last week in an interview with the New York Times that he intended to immediately increase his efforts to clear homeless encampments from the streets, giving the project an optimistic two-week deadline.

He told the New York Times, “We’re going to rid the encampments off our street and we’re going to place people in healthy living conditions with wraparound services,” adding, “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.”

Adams also outlined what the process would look like for dismantling the encampments and resettling the homeless populations living in them.

“I’m telling my city agencies to do an analysis block by block, district by district, identify where the encampments are,” Adams said, “then execute a plan to give services to the people who are in the encampments, then to dismantle those encampments.”

A website for the city of New York outlines the steps individuals should take if they see a homeless encampment. The site instructs them to call 911, with the promise that a “police precinct will respond within 4 hours.” The site defines an encampment as a “structure to live under,” including mattresses, tarps, tents, and camping setups.

Mayor Adams has discussed this initiative previously, but his recent announcement seems to suggest he’s moving forward with renewed fervor.

Last month Adams posted on Twitter, “No one wants to live on the streets or on the subway. We have to reform our system to ensure all New Yorkers have the dignity they deserve.”

New York City Council Member Rafael Salamanca threw his backing behind Adam’s initiative saying, “For far too long we’ve normalized seeing individuals sleeping on the streets, trains and stairwells.”

While mayor Adams has said that his goal is to provide services to the homeless before destroying the encampments, not everyone seems to agree that this is the best course of action.

The progressive Safety Net Project, part of the Urban Justice Center, tweeted in response to these efforts, saying, “This take by @NYCMayor is entirely wrong.” They contend that the mayor should do more to provide affordable or free housing for the homeless.

The Safety Net Project page has frequently criticized the city’s shelters for having rooms with too many beds and has instead insisted that the mayor allow homeless people access to unused hotel rooms. The posts on their page indicate their belief that single rooms provide privacy and dignity.

Adams said that the best interest of the homeless is at the heart of his initiative, telling reporters in Brooklyn this week, “There’s nothing dignified about people living in the streets.”