Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday said that 1,379 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness on the subway had accepted placement in the city’s shelter system as his administration surpassed three months since the rollout of his subway safety plan.
That number included individuals who entered a shelter after Department of Social Services outreach teams engaged them in the city’s subway system since the program began in February, a spokesperson told Gothamist. The mayor’s office said it was a big jump from the 22 people who accepted shelter during the first week of the program earlier this year. He also said teams were making contact with an average of 744 “people in need” on the subway daily.
The number of people who accepted shelter did not include those who were removed from street level encampments, the city said. A spokesperson with the Department of Homeless Services said the count was made up of “unique individuals” who entered the shelter system, meaning it did not contain any duplicates. According to the numbers in the report, it was not clear how many of the residents who sought shelter stayed within the system.
“Three months into our work making subways safer and connecting New Yorkers in need with services, and it is evident that our efforts are working,” Adams said in a prepared statement. “We have connected more than 1,300 New Yorkers with shelter and other vital services and our teams are making hundreds of engagements every day on the subways, a monumental milestone.”
The subway safety plan, with support from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, deployed 30 “joint response teams” made up of homeless services, health department workers and police officers into the subway system to conduct outreach and redirect individuals off the trains and into the city’s shelters, the mayor said. The program also called for hundreds of safe haven and stabilization beds and for new drop-in shelters at subway stations.
But homeless advocates said that simply reporting a number doesn’t say much about the quality of services that those New Yorkers received. Craig Hughes, a social worker with the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, told Gothamist on Wednesday that Adams’ announcement seemed more in service of providing good press than substantive information. He referred to the policy as “broken windows policing” and said that NYPD officers should not be part of the outreach teams.
“What it tells us is that the city has successfully coerced 1,379 people to move out of sight,” he said. “It does not tell us, however, really what happened to those folks.”
Several New Yorkers experiencing homelessness have said, in interviews with Gothamist, that they preferred riding the trains, or staying outside, over entering the shelter system, due to concerns about safety.