NYC works to prevent homeless people from sheltering on the subway

At the first morning rush hour since Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday sweeps plan to get rid of homeless people sheltering in the New York City subwaythe transit system feels a little different.

Judith Williams, who has lived in and around the subway for many years, said she’s noticed fewer people taking long naps on the train in the past few days.

“Maybe they’re getting text messages,” she said Tuesday at a station in Brooklyn.

At Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, outreach workers in orange vests, carrying folders, ran outside to search for homeless people to help. Officers approached two men, one sleeping at the bottom of the stairs, the other lying on the floor, and told them they had to move.

Manuel de Jesús Delgado and several other police officers sheltering inside the Jamaica-Van Wyck station in Queens saw the eyes of police officers patrolling the platform and ascending an escalator.

“What do I do when there are four of them standing there with guns and badges?” Mr. de Jesús, 72, asked in Spanish. “We can’t be there.” Inside the station, 61-year-old Al Walker, who is commuting to work, said he was “shocked” when the platform, usually filled with homeless people, was empty except for those taking trains on and off. “The mayor really got them to try,” he said.

But a vast subway system with 472 stations and thousands of carriages in operation is unlikely to transform overnight, especially when people have taken shelter in the system, sometimes for many years. years, feel they have no more appealing alternative on a February morning. .

Ms Williams said that although police kicked her off the floor of the subway station overnight, they agreed to let her sleep on a bench next to a shopping cart filled with her possessions, which she did. learned how to do it for many years.

Outreach workers at Penn Station provided the homeless with the usual limited options, often a bed in a shelter. And they received the usual thanks. Many homeless people refuse to stay in shelters because they find it dangerous or because they have many regulations and curfews.

One of the men was chased onto the platform by officers. The other went down a corridor into the commuter rail section of the station and lay down again.

Brother de Jesús and his friends in Jamaica had gone no further than the entrance at the top of the escalator that led down to the station, where they sat with their belongings in the chilly drizzle.

However, in other parts of the system nothing has changed. On the downtown train 2 at 149th St station in the Bronx, a sleeping man sat in one carriage by himself while commuters piled onto the next two carriages to get away from the strong smell. Another car had three people sleeping in it.

At the 110th Street station in Manhattan, a man smoked a cigarette on the platform within glimpses of two officers about 10 feet away.

On the downtown train 3 in Midtown Manhattan at 9 a.m., a man sprawled across four seats with an old woman’s cart beside him, resting his leg over a woman’s knee in a shirt. black parka with a covered body.

Opposite them, Johnny Pruitt, preparing for his job at a gym, said he was not surprised, as the new era had only been announced four days earlier.

Mr Pruitt, 39, who lives in Astoria, Queens, said: ‘It would be great if they had a place to put them.

“Ultimately, you want a clean and safe driving experience, but you don’t want it at the expense of kicking real people to the curb.”

On Friday, Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced that more than 1,000 people sheltering in the nation’s largest subway system would be removed. The move follows a rise in underground violent crime, including a number of high-profile attacks involving homeless people.

Police officers and mental health workers will be deployed into the system. Police will remove people who are using the train for anything other than transportation; Social workers will connect them with social and housing services, the mayor and governor said. “Not just do whatever you want,” Mr. Adams said. “Those days are over.”

ONE series of attacks on the subway system over the weekend, which included at least eight incidents of violence, only one of which involved a seemingly homeless attacker, underscoring the difficulty of eliminating random violence in the system.

At Tuesday’s monthly committee meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board, which operates the subways, the head of the Police Department’s transit department, Sheriff Jason Wilcox, said. During the night, more than two dozen Transit Bureau officers escorted the teams out of the city. health department and homelessness services.

During a press conference Tuesday, Adams said six teams of outreach workers were deployed Monday and the city plans to have 30. So far, teams have interacted with about 100 homeless people in the subway system, Mr. Adams said.

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said officers are focusing on high-priority train stations and lines where ridership or reported crime has increased.

Mr. Wilcox added that police officials are expected to supplement those efforts with stronger enforcement of the subway’s code of conduct, which prohibits staying in the station for more than an hour and sitting. more than one seat on a train or platform.

“We know that enforcing the rules and signing up isn’t really a long-term solution to housing, and we understand that,” Sheriff Wilcox said of the homeless in the area. transportation system. “But we are also committed to enforcing order.”

The focus will initially be on the terminus stations, where homeless people often congregate, and at Central Jamaica station at the end of line E, outreach workers said Tuesday, officials said. their number is much less than usual.

At Penn Station, however, several officers tasked with increased enforcement were skeptical and said they were just transferring homeless people from one place to another.

“For us, it was uncomfortable,” said one officer, who asked not to be named. “We just played chess with them.”

She added, “There’s really no answer right now until the city can produce some proper replacement. This is just another Band-Aid on an open wound. “

Up the stairs from where the officers were patrolling, on the platform of trains 2 and 3, Jenny Hammond was smoking a cigarette, which is forbidden in the system. When asked if she has been approached by outreach workers, she said she has many times. “But the only thing they will give you is a shelter and I absolutely won’t go,” she added.

As foretold, four workers from the Bowery Resident Commission, a social service organization the city contracts with for subway access, stepped up. “Your name is Jenny, isn’t it?” one person asked.

Outreach officers offered Ms. Hammond a room in a shelter. She refused.

They asked her what she needed. She said she had lost her identification.

Outreach agents offered to refer her to a soup kitchen a metro stop away so she could get her new ID. Ms Hammond said the swelling in her legs made walking very difficult.

An outreach worker said he was able to find Ms Hammond a bed in a low-fenced shelter called a safe haven where there is no curfew and she will only have one. roommate. Miss Hammond said no, because they wouldn’t let her bring alcohol in.

The outreach team offered to give Ms Hammond a walker from their office inside Penn Station, so she could go to the soup kitchen to get her new identification.

After much rolling around, she agreed. The outreach agents said they could meet her in an hour with the walker and asked where she would be. She said outside a liquor store downstairs in the train station. The outreach team picked her up and led her slowly, tiptoeing down the stairs.

David Dee Delgado and Michael Gold contribution report. NYC works to prevent homeless people from sheltering on the subway

Fry Electronics Team

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