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New York City to clear homeless encampments in two weeks?

Jeff Lewis/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation

New York City is joining the ranks of other liberal, urban enclaves where elected officials have realized that their residents have had enough of the seemingly permanent encampments of homeless people cluttering the streets. Being politicians, most of them have recognized the need to do something about the situation if they want to hold on to their phony-baloney jobs. (To quote his honor, the esteemed William J. Le Petomane.) While the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles are launching “studies” into the problem and diverting funding toward homeless housing, Gotham Mayor Eric Adams took a more blunt approach yesterday. Or at least he tried to sound as if he was doing so. He told reporters that he was going to “clear” all of the homeless encampments on the streets of New York. And to really add some emphasis, he said he would have it done in two weeks. (NY Times)

Mayor Eric Adams said on Friday that his administration was pursuing plans to clear New York City’s streets of makeshift campsites where homeless people live.

Mr. Adams, in a brief interview, provided few details about the initiative, which would require considerable manpower and logistical coordination. The most recent official estimate, in January 2021, put the number of people living in parks and on the streets at around 1,100, which was widely seen as an undercount.

The mayor also did not specify where the people now living in the encampments would go. Nonetheless, he vowed to accomplish what his predecessors had not in addressing a persistent, multifaceted issue.

So the Mayor’s initial announcement was a bit misleading. Some of the initial buzz seemed to indicate that he had a plan to clear all of the homeless off of the streets in two weeks, a seemingly impossible task. What he really plans to do is clear all of the tents, cardboard boxes, and other temporary shelters off of the streets. How would he get the homeless all into safer lodgings? Well, he doesn’t really have a plan for that.

Adams said that they will “place people in healthy living conditions with wraparound services.” But the city has had little to no success finding enough accommodations for the thousands upon thousands of homeless that are on the streets on any given night. (The recent estimate of 1,100 is woefully low.) And even if you could find enough rooms, it’s always a challenge to get many of them, particularly the ones with mental health issues, to agree to go.

Also, you can’t legally just start picking them up and locking them up someplace, a fact that Adams said he was aware of. “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. So all this plan will really do is force the homeless into doorways, the subway, or other overhangs to keep the rain off of them.

Speaking of the subways, the Mayor has already developed a reputation for overpromising and underdelivering. His last plan was to have the police move all of the homeless out of the subways. Community outreach groups recently reported that the program has had at least a small amount of success, with 15 to 20 percent fewer people sleeping on the trains and the platforms now. But that still leaves a huge population of homeless people in the tunnels.

If the new mayor can actually come up with a way to beat the city’s homeless problem, I will be the first to salute him. Heck, he should probably be up for a Nobel prize if he manages this feat and then go on a tour teaching other mayors how he did it. But I’ve yet to hear anything concrete out of the mayor’s office to suggest that he actually has a plan to do that.