Just weeks after embarking on a campaign to boot unsheltered New Yorkers out of the subway system, Mayor Eric Adams says he’s removing their encampments from the streets as well.

At a fundraiser on Friday, Adams told The New York Times that city agencies would identify the encampments, offer residents homeless outreach services, and then “dismantle” their makeshift shelters — all within a two-week period. On Saturday, a spokesperson for the mayor said the initial sweep has already begun, led by the New York Police Department, as well as the sanitation, social services and parks departments. The task force aims to clear 150 or more makeshift shelters on its first pass, which began on March 18th.

“We are breaking down siloes and working together across government to keep New Yorkers safe and our streets clean,” Adams told Gothamist in a written statement. He told The New York Times that the displaced people will be placed in “healthy living conditions with wraparound services.”

The mayor didn’t give any details on what those “healthy living conditions” would be, although his spokesperson said workers will connect people to shelters or other housing options. Many unhoused New Yorkers avoid congregate shelters due to restrictive rules and unsafe conditions. And supportive or subsidized housing options are difficult to come by, with long wait lists and lots of red tape.

The mayor’s spokesperson did say that encampment inhabitants are given written notice 24 hours before being removed, but did not specify what is happening to their belongings. Once the task force has swept through the first 150 encampments, it will check for new ones.

Advocates for the unhoused say that simply breaking up encampments will do more harm than good, and that city agencies need to provide safer and more private shelter options if they want to get people off the streets.

“Sweeps and policing are not the answers to unsheltered homelessness,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless. “Without expanding access to the types of shelters and housing people want and need, Mayor Adams’ latest initiative will fail to address the reasons people sleep on the streets and will harm an already vulnerable community.”

In relying on congregate shelters to absorb the people displaced by his plan, Adams is acting against COVID-19 infection control guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency says that people living in encampments should not be removed unless they can be placed in private rooms.

“Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers,” the guidance reads. “This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”

A city hall spokesperson said shelters require masks, and that outreach workers will offer vaccines and other healthcare.

The pandemic has taken a special toll on unhoused people, many of whom are at risk for severe disease. More than 100 died from COVID-19 in the first half of 2020, and many others were disconnected from mental health and substance use disorder treatment, driving an increase in overdose deaths during the same period.

Proposals for new shelters and homeless outreach centers have been heavily criticized by elected officials in the affected communities, who cite a rash of recent attacks against New Yorkers of Asian descent, some of which were allegedly committed by unsheltered men with severe, untreated mental illness.

People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes, advocates say, and those living on the street are especially vulnerable. According to city data, 22 unhoused New Yorkers were killed in the 2021 fiscal year, more than double the previous year’s figure. Most recently, Metropolitan Police in Washington, D.C., arrested a man believed to have shot five homeless people in early March.