- New York City Mayor Eric Adams vowed to remove homeless encampments from the streets.
- Adams said he plans to get it done within a two-week span.
- The encampment sweeps are receiving backlash from advocates and unhoused New Yorkers.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said his administration is aiming to clear all street encampments belonging to unhoused New Yorkers within a two-week period.
The move comes just weeks after Adams announced that he would remove unhoused people from subways.
“We’re going to rid the encampments off our street and we’re going to place people in healthy living conditions with wraparound services,” Adams told The New York Times in an interview on March 25, adding that he was planning “to do it within a two weeks’ period.”
It’s unclear what exactly the healthy living conditions will be, but a spokesperson for Adams said the plan is to connect unhoused folks to shelters or other options, according to Gothamist, a local outlet.
The mayor added in his interview with The Times that unhoused people legally cannot be forced to live in shelters.
“We can’t stop an individual from sleeping on the street based on law, and we’re not going to violate that law,” he said. “But you can’t build a miniature house made out of cardboard on the streets. That’s inhumane.”
Shelters have been regarded by many advocates and unhoused folks across the country as dangerous and inhumane.
When reporters asked about the safety concerns in shelters at a press conference Tuesday, Adams doubled down on his plan.
“We cannot tolerate these makeshift, unsafe houses on the side of highways, in trees, in front of schools, in parks. This is just not acceptable, and it’s something I’m just not going to allow to happen,” he said. “I’m not going to ignore what I’m seeing like other people who are willing to do so.
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“We’re walking past people that are living on cardboard boxes, in these makeshift, inhumane houses — this is just not right,” the mayor added. “There’s nothing dignified about people living in the streets.”
City official estimated that there were 1,100 unhoused New Yorkers based on a survey that is widely thought of as an undercount, The Times reported.
However, the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy organization for homeless people with a chapter in New York, estimates that there were over 48,000 unhoused New Yorkers as of January 2022, citing the NYC Department of Homeless Service.
“There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers,” according to the coalition’s website.
“Sweeps and policing are not the answers to unsheltered homelessness,” Jacquelyn Simone, the coalition’s policy director, told Gothamist. “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.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also urged government officials to hold off on homelessness encampment sweeps as it can contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, the city has pushed on with sweeps and further displacing unhoused people.
“You are kicking us while we are already down,” a man near an encampment said in a video for local outlet FNTV.
Representatives for Adams did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.