As a dozen social workers poured into the South Ferry Terminal at the end of Line 1 shortly after midnight Thursday, City Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins urged staff to treat everyone they encounter with “dignity and respect.”
Jenkins — a lifelong New Yorker who lived in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn as a child — said soft touch is key as the city takes a new approach to improving life. mayor adams goals Drive homeless people out of the city’s subway system.
During the overnight operation at South Pier, social workers transported 12 people to a homeless shelter. They helped 90 other people who seemed destitute.
A group of police officers were also present. In some cases, police removed them from the station when they refused services from outreach workers.
Police officers and social workers are nurses from the city’s health department who are assigned to outreach teams to diagnose whether precarious homeless people are causing potential harm to themselves or others — in which case they will forced to undergo treatment.
Since Adams launched his “Subway Safety Plan” on Feb. 21, the same campaign has been carried out at three or four subway terminals each night. Officials say it’s a different strategy from former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strategy to tackle homelessness in the subway.
Outreach workers at the Bowery Residents Council — a nonprofit that the city has contracted to do homeless outreach on the subway — no longer transport homeless people from the subway to shelters. These rides are handled by Citi Care. The MTA also plans to hire contractors to transport homeless people from the station.
That gives Bowery Residents Council staff more time to serve the homeless, said Muzzy Rosenblatt, the nonprofit’s chief executive.
Rosenblatt also pointed to a policy shift under Adams that reduced the requirement for the homeless to get more comfortable private beds rather than dormitory-style shelters. This year, officials scrapped a rule that forced people to have at least a nine-month record of homelessness in order to get one of those “safe haven” or “stable” beds.
“Before, people were forced into shelters,” Rosenblatt said. “Now what the police are saying is, ‘Look you can’t sleep on the train, you’re breaking the rules. But we’re not going to call you. We have these people to help you.'”
More than 700 people have been transported from subway stations to shelters in the first two months of the initiative, and 216 people have been transported from subway stations to shelters from early December to the end of January, city officials said.
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Data show that between May 2020 and May 2021 (former Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down the system Forced homeless people off trains overnight. During that time, city officials said 2,596 homeless people were taken from subways to shelters, about 216 a month.
“The pandemic and the closure of the subway have created pressure and created an opportunity for us to serve people better,” Rosenblatt said. “Especially given the fact that our former mayor and our former governor were both The level of cooperation between the two is 180 degrees.”
“It’s not just about getting people off the subway. It’s about getting them in the right place, and that means accessing mental health services, which is largely the responsibility of the state.”
Some homeless advocates believe Adams’ push to remove homeless people from subways is wrong — and want the mayor to give those who enter shelters more opportunities for permanent housing.
“To reduce homelessness, the city should focus its investments on permanent housing, safe shelters and voluntary mental health care,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Homeless Coalition.
Jenkins points to mayor’s proposed investment $500 million in affordable and supportive housing annually over the next ten years. The commissioner said he was working to simplify the application process for such programs.
“We have to interact with the homeless and really give them the dignity they deserve,” Jenkins said. “In this administration, we’re doing it differently.”