Homelessness is out of control in NYC, and little is being done about it. In April, there were a record 61,782 homeless people sleeping each night in public shelters, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
Most homeless people are not violent, just desperate. Still, the MTA says that subway incidents involving the homeless jumped 50 percent over the first three months of this year.
From sprawling across seats to fare evasion to menacing passengers, the unruly among homeless people, a number of whom are mentally ill, are making riders’ lives a nightmare. But finally, Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking action — sort of.
Starting July 1, rule-breaking homeless riders will get a choice: Receive a summons or accept social support services. Those who agree to get city help will be taken to a homeless service center.
“New Yorkers want homeless people in the subway to receive the right interventions that will help them get back on their feet,” de Blasio said. “Subjecting these individuals to criminal justice involvement for low-level, nonviolent offenses is not the answer.”
Right, Mr. Mayor, but what happens to those who refuse the offer and ignore the summons? Sorry, off to the presidential debates he goes!
Now that de Blasio is running for president, he is attempting to show he’s doing something about NYC’s homeless situation, particularly in the subways. But the mayor’s Subway Diversion Project is fuzzy on follow-up, which doesn’t prevent those who refuse his program from hopping back on the subways within 24 hours. Cameras on each platform and car would help, not to mention cameras and adequate security in the shelters.
The priorities are clear:
- Mandate that subways cannot be used as temporary living quarters for homeless people.
- Establish a solid shelter system, with truly comprehensive services and sufficient security to make them destinations of sanctuary, not living hell.
The candidate elected mayor in 2021 will be the person who says that homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are the top priorities. Setting up safe shelters while getting troubled homeless people off our subways go hand in hand, and he or she will be clear about this, with detailed solutions on Day 1.
Homelessness. Not carriage horses.
Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.