More than 80 homeless encampments and hot spots were identified, and at least 10 were cleared out, authorities said Wednesday.
Of those encampments identified, a coalition of NYPD officers and city agencies, including the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, visited about 50 of them, and transported 10 people to shelters, said Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez, speaking at a news conference at police headquarters.
“Offering outreach and services is the main thrust, the main goal, of this plan,” Gomez said, adding there is an “aggressive schedule” to visiting a location.
Before each visit, Gomez said authorities offer assistance and outreach, and give “fair warning of the impending clean up.” The visits first started on August 17.
There are about 3,000 to 4,000 homeless people who decline the services of city shelters, said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, or about 5.5% to 6.7% of the entire homeless population in the city.
“It’s a number that’s been growing over a period of time,” Bratton said. “That population has been steadily growing over the last 15, 20 years. And it’s reached a tipping point, however, I think. They did become more visible this summer.”
Bratton said homeless people are legally allowed to beg if it’s intimidating or creates fear, and are allowed to sit on the sidewalk and park benches. They are not allowed to lie down.
“What our officers are focusing on is the behavior: if they attempt to set up an encampment, if they attempt to aggressively beg,” he said. “We’re training our officers on what they can do legally because I don’t intend to set us up for a constitutional challenge.”
But there are fewer homeless people in the subways, said Chief of Transit Joseph Fox. Patrols are often accompanied professional counselors “so we get better results,” he said.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is ready to spend more on supportive housing to combat homelessness and the city should follow suit.
Mary Brosnahan, the president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, said the only long-term splution would be to offer supportive and affordable housing, which the state has not done enough of.
“Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo has proposed funding for only a tiny fraction of the 30,000 units of supportive housing needed in New York City over the next ten years (with another 5,000 statewide),” Brosnahan said in a statement. “The City has taken encouraging steps to help ease the homelessness crisis, but it cannot succeed unless the Governor steps up and does his part. The time to act is now.”
(With Emily Ngo)