Dozens of New York faith leaders on Good Friday condemned Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign to break up homeless encampments, calling the policy “immoral and inhumane.”
In a letter sent to the mayor Friday, the 56 leaders representing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Humanists urged the mayor to end the homeless sweeps and instead focus on providing suitable alternatives to living on the streets and in the subways.
“When you separate people from their belongings and makeshift homes on the streets, and fail to provide them with a better option, you are only shuffling people around and traumatizing them further,” according to the letter signed by the faith leaders.
An Adams spokesperson, Charles Lutvak, declined to comment and pointed to remarks the mayor made on April 8th, when Adams said his administration would not “allow the normalizing of people living on our streets.”
Previously, the mayor said outreach workers who engaged with people living on the street offered a range of housing options. Adams had also said 350 low-barrier beds opened in March but advocates said those beds were planned about two years ago under the Bill de Blasio administration.
When you separate people from their belongings and makeshift homes on the streets, and fail to provide them with a better option, you are only shuffling people around and traumatizing them further.
Advocates say thousands of people choose to live in the streets because the city's large, congregate shelters are unsafe. Advocates said safe havens offer more services, fewer curfews and rules.
The 56 leaders represent more than 300 religious organizations, mostly in the five boroughs with a few outside the city. One group has a few dozen members and the larger one has more than 10,000 members.
The leaders asked Adams to open temporary accommodations that are safe, private and dignified, including so-called safe havens, a type of shelter that has on-site medical services or connections to other services such as case management, and housing placement services. The solution to homelessness, they say, is permanent housing.
“Rather than simply trying to make homelessness less visible to those of us who are lucky enough to be housed, we asked you to listen to the homeless New Yorkers who tell us that what they need to get off the streets is housing,” according to the letter signed by the group.
This Sunday, the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister in charge of Middle Church in the East Village, said her congregants, like Christians around the world, will remember the resurrection of Christ.
“You are the resurrection. That's what I'm preaching,” Lewis told Gothamist. “When you rise up out of your selfishness and care for the others, you are the resurrection. When you take care of the poor, you are the resurrection.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of Middle Church. This story has also been updated to clarify the attribution of statements made by the mayor and his spokesperson.