A record number of New York homeless people died last year, according to a new report by the group Coalition for the Homeless, who called on the city and state to fund more housing units and remove cops from outreach responses to the Big Apple’s unhoused.
“No one wants to sleep on the streets: They do so because the City and State have failed to offer them better options. Police sweeps haven’t worked before and won’t work this time,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director at the organization and author of the report.
“Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul have an enormous responsibility to correct the mistakes of the past, protect unsheltered individuals, and deliver affordable, accessible, and supportive housing on a scale that actually meets the need,” the advocate added.
The city and state must ramp up building more places for the destitute to stay, and officials should rely less on congregate shelters that many avoid and exposes inhabitants to COVID-19 infections, according to the State of the Homeless report, an annual look by the group at the challenges facing New Yorkers without a home.
There were 640 homeless people who died, three-in-four of whom, or 489, were sheltered, while the remainder were not during the city’s fiscal year of 2021, which lasted from July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021.
The leading cause of death was drug-related cases, which nearly doubled year-over-year from 131 to 237. Thirty-one people died from COVID-19, while 16 perished of exposure to cold weather and two people passed away in the heat.
Both FY 2021 and FY 2020 were well above pre-pandemic figures, with or without the deaths caused by the virus, the report shows.
The report says the city has relied too much on the mass shelters and should instead open at least 3,000 new so-called Safe Haven units to meet their specific needs and stabilization beds in private rooms.
Additionally, the report called upon Governor Hochul to dedicate funding in the state for at least 1,000 supportive housing apartments — in other words, deeply affordable homes with onsite services.
New York City officials have also left 2,500 publicly-funded apartments vacant for unhoused people requiring mental health care and other services — a number higher than the amount of street homeless, the New York Post reported.
The high rate of drug deaths last year shows a need for more overdose prevention centers, after the city opened two safe injection sites late last year, the first in the nation which averted 59 deaths within three weeks.
Meanwhile, officials should also stop deploying NYPD for 311 calls about homelessness and instead send out trained contractors with the city’s Department of Homeless Services, the report says.
The findings come as Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul have focused on getting homeless people out of the subway system, with Adams deploying a record number of cops into the underground transit system while Hochul promised more social workers over the coming months.
In a shocking shooting spree over the past weeks, a man gunned down five men sleeping in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Washington D.C., killing two, until police caught the guy they say committed the heinous acts.