By Mark Morales and Emma Tucker, CNN
New York City is executing a plan to clean up encampments across the city where homeless people are known to live and connect those people to social services over the next two weeks, according to an official in Mayor Eric Adams’ office.
City officials will work to eradicate makeshift sites on city streets and in the subway and place homeless people in shelters where they will have access to mental health, medical needs and services. housing, the official told CNN in an interview on Saturday.
The official said more than 150 such encampments across the city have been identified as places the city wants to clean up.
The first notices of the effort were posted on Thursday and visits took place on Friday, when homeless people were given 24 hours’ notice to clean up the sites.
The official said the multi-agency effort is being led by a task force that includes the city’s Department of Social Services; the New York Police Department (NYPD); the Department of Sanitation; and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Police officers conducting the tours are required to wear body-worn cameras, the official said.
“This effort is about caring for our people and our public spaces because no New Yorker deserves to live on the streets,” Adams said. “We are breaking down silos and working together across government to keep New Yorkers safe and our streets clean. These are fundamental expectations that we have for our city, and we will meet them. »
Homeless advocates denounce city plan
The city averages 650 engagements per night, the official told CNN. In the first week of the plan, 22 people expressed their willingness to be placed in shelters, the official said.
Between February 21 and March 20, 312 people were placed in shelters and received services, according to the official.
“Once all sites have been addressed in this initial phase, the task force’s work will continue with the next phase, which will include a re-inspection process, followed by a re-survey of the five boroughs to identify any new encampments,” he said. said the manager. .
But the plan is already facing opposition from some homeless advocates, such as the Coalition for the Homeless.
“Once again, Mayor Adams demonstrates his lack of understanding for homeless New Yorkers who are homeless,” Jacquelyn Simone, the advocacy organization’s policy director, said in a statement to CNN on Saturday.
“His administration has no intention of providing safe single rooms where they can stay indoors, and instead relies on the tired, cruel old tactic of driving homeless people out of Manhattan.”
Adams administration officials told CNN earlier Saturday they believe the shelters are much safer than living on the subway or on the street.
In an appearance Saturday afternoon, Adams addressed the concerns of homeless advocates who oppose his administration’s approach, who argue the city lacks safe and available shelters.
“There are 8.8 million people in this city and 30 million opinions, but there is only one mayor,” Adams said, adding that shelters are “extremely safe” for those without shelter.
Makeshift housing is ‘dangerous’, says Adams
The effort is part of the first phase of what Adams dubbed a comprehensive safety plan to fight crime and tackle homelessness that will expand response teams from health, police and community leaders through the city.
The joint initiative, which began last month, calls for the deployment of up to 30 inter-agency collaborative teams that bring together the Department of Homeless Services; the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; the NYPD; and community providers in “high-need” locations, the plan says.
It also aims to add more Behavioral Health Crisis Assistance Teams – under the “B-HEARD” pilot program – to constituencies to enable mental health professionals to respond to mental health 911 calls. non-violent; direct NYPD enforcement of subway rules; and provide investments in homeless services and housing.
The new efforts come as crime in the city, particularly in its public transit system, has drawn national attention.
On Saturday, Adams said he did not “subscribe to the theory” that homeless people should not be allowed to continue living in dangerous and inhumane conditions such as makeshift shelters, cardboard boxes or subway stations. .
Without mentioning names, Adams did not shy away from attacking his predecessors whose administrations, Adams said, ignored such dilapidated conditions.
“I’m just being very clear: People are not going to live in unsafe makeshift housing,” Adams said. “We should never have allowed this to happen.”
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CNN’s Taylor Romine, Laura Studley and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report.