Do the so-called “advocates for the homeless” really want what’s best for them?
We ask as Mayor Adams shows the political courage to do what his predecessor wouldn’t: Make our subways safer and more welcoming to all.
“No more smoking, no more doing drugs, no more sleeping, no more doing barbecues on the subway system. No more just doing whatever you want,” Adams said as his subway safety program launched Monday. “No. Those days are over.”
Of course, advocacy groups are gearing up for action, promising lawsuits in pursuit of some phantom “right” to sleep on the subways. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the subways for cleaning overnight during the pandemic, the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project sued to keep the homeless there. Mayor Bill de Blasio even put in charge of homeless services Steven Banks, the former chief attorney for Legal Aid who frequently sued the city on that topic.
But what’s compassionate, or even right, about letting people sleep on the subway? It’s filthy and dehumanizing. Some people don’t want to go to shelters, yes — often because they are not in their right minds because of mental illness or substance addiction. Letting them “do whatever they want” is not the answer.
The argument that the shelters are somehow less safe than a subway station has never held water. Nevertheless, Adams and Gov. Hochul understand that improving the social safety net will help, and Hochul is proposing $27.5 million in additional funding for psychiatric beds statewide among other funding.
These are all good moves. Will the politicians and advocates who claim they care to concentrate on improving treatment and shelter, or will they push baseless lawsuits hoping to keep a status quo that punishes the homeless and New Yorkers in general?
“There’s one case where a woman has been living under a stairway in the system for months. This is not acceptable,” Adams said in his speech. “That is not dignity. That is disgusting. And that’s not who we are as a city.”
We couldn’t agree more. Let’s hope others have the sense to see it.