Thirty-nine unsheltered New Yorkers came indoors through Mayor Eric Adams’ ongoing push to sweep the city of encampments — after 733 site visits by city workers and 710 encampment sweeps — according to data provided by his office Tuesday.
The updated tally accounts for New Yorkers who entered into city shelters or other settings between March 18th, when Adams launched his latest initiative, and May 1st. Adams’ office pointed to data from the year prior to his taking office, saying only 26 people had come indoors during encampment sweeps in a 12-month span under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, indicating the latest mayor’s efforts were far more successful.
“I have said since we started this initiative that every New Yorker deserves dignity, and we are demonstrating that this is possible,” Adams said in a prepared statement. “Our teams are working professionally and diligently every day to make sure that every New Yorker living on the street knows they have a better option while ensuring that everyone who lives in or visits our city can enjoy the clean public spaces we all deserve.”
The mayor's office said that, of the 710 site clearings, not all involved the NYPD or sanitation workers. Some sites were vacated voluntarily by people after a warning from the city.
The mayor had previously said five people had come indoors during the first two weeks of his initiative, after more than two hundred sweeps.
But advocates for homeless New Yorkers had a different interpretation of the latest figures. Craig Hughes, a social worker with the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, was skeptical about the placement figures released by the administration for the prior year, saying now was the first time the city had put out encampment-specific numbers. Hughes said even if there had been an increase to 39 people after only two months, that still only represents a roughly 5% success rate compared to how many encampments city workers had visited and the hundreds of people moved.
“That isn’t something to brag about. That is a colossal failure,” Hughes said, adding that the number didn’t take into account the, “exhaustion, trauma and desperation that people had to experience during those sweeps.”
NYPD officers have repeatedly singled out the same homeless individuals over the course of the mayor’s initiative, such as the homeless activist Jonny Grima who was arrested multiple times for refusing to leave his tent in the East Village. Adams has also pushed to remove homeless people from city subways, a tactic advocates say pushes the most marginalized New Yorkers further and further to the fringes. The MTA has tracked a series of homeless encampments in their subway tunnels, and recently two homeless people were killed on the tracks, allegedly traveling to one such encampment.
Many New Yorkers living on the streets say they won’t consider coming inside unless the city can offer them a private room, citing violence and unsafe conditions at city shelters. But at a City Council hearing Tuesday, city officials conceded they had just 131 vacancies in facilities with safe haven or stabilization beds, while more than 2,300 New Yorkers are estimated to sleep on the streets on any given night.
About 13 people on average come in off the streets and subways daily to some type of placement through the Department of Homeless Services, according to quarterly data reported by the city. Advocates point out the encampment sweeps represent relatively few of those figures. In a month and a half period last quarter, about 580 people came indoors, the city data suggests.
City officials declined to provide specifics on where the 39 people had been placed — whether it was a shelter or a safe haven bed, or even a jail or hospital setting, which are sometimes included in placement calculations. It was also not immediately clear if all those people had remained indoors after initially being counted by the city.
“These counterproductive sweeps didn’t solve unsheltered homelessness under prior administrations, and they aren’t solving unsheltered homelessness under this administration either,” said Jacquelyn Simone with the Coalition for the Homeless. “Mayor Adams should cease these sweeps immediately and instead invest in housing and single-occupancy shelter placements to help people move indoors.”
This story has been updated with additional information.