NYC's Adams' sweeps of homeless camps criticized

Of the 2,308 people who were "forcibly" removed during the sweeps, only 90 people stayed in a shelter for more than one day.

Published: June 29, 2023 11:04pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) — A scathing new report from New York City's fiscal watchdog says Mayor Eric Adams' high-profile sweep of hundreds of homeless camps was a "failure," with few of the thousands displaced ending up in permanent housing.

The audit of NYC's Department of Homeless Services, conducted by City Comptroller Brad Lander's office, found that sweeps of homeless encampment sites between March and November 2022 "completely failed" to meet their primary goal of connecting homeless individuals with services.

Of the 2,308 people who were "forcibly" removed during the sweeps, only 90 people stayed in a shelter for more than one day, according to the audit. As of January 23, 2023, only 47 people remained in a shelter, and only three secured permanent housing, the report noted.

Meanwhile, auditors said they visited nearly 100 locations city officials swept in 2022; homeless people had rebuilt some form of encampment at 31 sites, they said.

"The evidence is clear: by every measure, the homeless sweeps failed," Lander said in a statement.

Adams created a task force last year to deal with the issue, and ordered the sweeps shortly after city officials discovered nearly 30 makeshift homeless encampments hidden in subway tunnels and around transit stations.

“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 reporters during a briefing on the crackdown.

The auditors make several recommendations in addition to calling an end to the homeless sweeps, including establishing a large-scale “Housing First” program, providing permanent housing "without first requiring individuals to enter shelter or graduate through a series of programs or services."

The Adams administration has focused on the issue of homelessness in the Big Apple following crime spikes and a series of high-profile violent attacks in recent years.

More recently, New York City's already overburdened shelter system has been pushed to the limit by an influx of thousands of asylum seekers following a surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Homeless advocates have argued that sweeps of encampments do little other than moving people from one other public space to another, in some cases after losing their possessions. They argue the solution is to make major investments in permanent housing and support for the city's homeless.

“Mayor Adams needs to face the facts evidenced in this report: criminalizing homeless New Yorkers and sweeping unsheltered individuals out of sight is not only deeply inhumane, it is also demonstrably counterproductive," Dave Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement.

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