Mayor Proposes 1,400 Shelter Beds to Move Homeless People Off Streets

Putting additional funding behind his efforts to move homeless people off New York City streets, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Sunday that he would propose a $171 million investment in homeless services that would include funding for 1,400 specialized shelter beds.

The spending comes as the city carries out an aggressive plan to remove homeless people from encampments and the subway system.

Mr. Adams’s plan would expand on a program begun under the previous mayor, Bill de Blasio, that provides temporary specialized shelter beds for New Yorkers coming off the street — beds in high-quality facilities that offer more services and have fewer restrictions, including no curfew. Some have private rooms rather than barracks-style beds.

Mr. Adams had previously announced the addition of 500 beds to the program as part of his push to remove homeless people from the subways; the proposal unveiled on Sunday would expand the total number of such beds to more than 4,000, city officials said.

The program aims to ease the transition off the street for homeless people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. While the facilities vary in size, they tend to be smaller than congregate shelters, although the mayor’s office was not able to provide details yet.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January, has focused on public safety and the city’s pandemic recovery in his administration’s first 100 days. He has been under pressure to do more to help homeless New Yorkers after drawing criticism over clearing encampments.

The mayor is in the middle of budget negotiations with the City Council and plans to release his executive budget proposal in a major speech on Tuesday at Kings Theater in Brooklyn. He has not yet released a detailed housing plan despite having promised to do so.

In February, Mr. Adams proposed $2.1 billion in spending for the Department of Homeless Services in his $98.5 billion preliminary budget proposal.

The final budget must be passed by the Council by July 1.

The mayor has defended police sweeps of homeless encampments as crucial to the city’s revitalization. Several of the sweeps have been captured in videos, shared widely on social media, that show officers throwing homeless New Yorkers’ belongings into the garbage.

“We have to abandon the belief that it is dignified to allow people to live on streets in encampments, tents, cardboard boxes, no access to mental health services, drug paraphernalia, human waste inside these tents,” Mr. Adams said last week in a television interview.

The city has been clearing encampments of homeless people who were sleeping in the streets or under highways.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The allocation for more services for the homeless was applauded by the City Council speaker, Adrienne Adams.

“This $171 million investment in solutions that can better help support unhoused New Yorkers transition from homelessness is the right approach and a major step forward for our city,” Ms. Adams, a Democrat, said in a statement.

In his announcement, Mr. Adams sought to highlight the work of outreach teams who he said had persuaded 700 people living in streets and subways to seek shelter.

That outreach has been hampered at times by the shelters themselves, which can be crowded and dangerous, leading some to prefer the streets. City statistics from January show that fewer than a third of those living on the subway who were persuaded to enter shelters were still there by the end of the month.

The mayor’s proposal would allocate $12 million in funding for outreach and create three new drop-in centers providing medical and behavioral health services.

Craig Hughes, a senior social worker with the Urban Justice Center who advocates on behalf of the city’s homeless population, said that what his clients really needed were private rooms as well as permanent housing placements they could access without going through the shelter system. While he praised the mayor’s proposal to add shelter beds, he said it would do little to make up for the sweeps of homeless encampments.

“His entire homeless policy has been about getting homeless people out of sight,” Mr. Hughes said.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.

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