An effort to evacuate hundreds of homeless camps in New York City has resulted in only five people accepting beds at a shelter, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday.
The city has so far removed 239 of the 244 encampments located mostly in Manhattan, according to city officials.
Adams said that while the number of people who had accepted shelter was low, he was hopeful that they would increase over time as city workers build trust among the homeless. The last encampment removal began on March 18. The mayor said he did not have a total count of the number of people the city had contacted who had lived in camps.
He cited a similar effort on the city’s subway system, which began in February and has since resulted in more than 300 people accepting shelter and city services.
“When we did the transit initiative, we only had 22 people accepting services,” Adams said at a city hall news conference. “We are restoring confidence in the city.”
Details about the initiative come as the mayor has been sharply criticized by lawyers who say police surveillance and the removal of camps is inhumane and only serves to disperse homeless people to other locations. Adams is not the first mayor to conduct this kind of investigation. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city also targeted encampments, with about 150 swipes a week in the final six months of 2021, according to data obtained through Freedom of Information Requests by the United States Government. Safety net project of the Urban Justice Center.
The mayor stood below the municipal traffic circle and was flanked by nearly a dozen city officials — including NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell — whose agencies have been involved in removing homeless camps.
According to recent city data, about 48,000 people live in shelters in New York City, while about 2,400 live on the streets.
Adams was defiant, saying he is solving the “dysfunction” of the government that has failed New Yorkers by letting them live in misery on the streets. He made a similar argument on Tuesday when he announced the rollout of 350 new shelters.
On Wednesday, the mayor spoke to journalists surrounded by enlarged photos, which showed a before and after shot of a cleared encampment. Another showed hundreds of scattered hypodermic needles.
“Is this dignity?” he said, referring to the photo.