New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing a backlash after moving forward with a host of policy changes that are cracking down on the city’s homeless population.
On Tuesday, Adams announced that officials would begin hospitalizing more homeless people by involuntarily providing care for those in “psychiatric crisis.”
“For too long, there has been a gray area where policy, law and accountability were unclear, and it allowed people in need to fall through the cracks,” Adams said. “This culture of uncertainty has led to untold suffering and deep frustration. This cannot continue.”
And for months, Adams and his administration have discussed preventing homeless people from sheltering in the subway despite ongoing budget cuts that will cut services the city provides for the homeless. At least 470 people have reportedly been arrested this year for “lying down” or occupying more than one seat in a train carriage. In March, authorities targeted people living under the Brooklyn-Queens Freeway in Williamsburg, while Adams reportedly attended an event promoting a Wells Fargo credit card that people can use to pay rent.
Adams’ policies have drawn criticism from homeless advocates.
“Mayor Adams continues to be wrong about his reliance on surveillance, policing, and the involuntary transportation and treatment of people with mental illness,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Homelessness Coalition, on Tuesday. . “Homeless people are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, but Mayor Adams has continually made violent scapegoats of homeless people and others with mental illness.
Eva Wong, director of the mayor’s office of community mental health, defended the changes.
“These new protocols and trainings will ensure that the agencies and systems responsible for connecting members of our community with serious mental illnesses to treatment work in unison to provide them with the support they need and deserve,” said said Wong.
However, others are unsure whether the city has the infrastructure it needs for emergency medical response. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams said the city needs to invest millions in its approach to the ongoing mental health crisis.
The number of respite care centers, which the city uses to house people in crisis, has halved in the past three years, according to a recent report. Only two shelters for adults facing a mental health crisis have been established since 2019. There were more than 60,000 homeless people, including 19,310 homeless children, sleeping in the main municipal shelter system in New York in September, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
“The ongoing reflection on how we define and produce public safety has also highlighted the need to address this crisis holistically as a health issue, rather than just law enforcement,” Williams said. in a press release.
NPR’s Dylan Scott contributed to this story.