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HomeCoronavirusDealing with NYC's Subway and the Homeless

Dealing with NYC’s Subway and the Homeless

Dealing with NYC’s Subway and the Homeless

Recent concerns over the NYC subway system, which began seven days ago, segued over to the homeless and their safety amidst the COVID-19 Crisis. Local leaders would continually address these issues as questions are raised by the press.

This page was originally meant to cover the week following the day that our Mayor and Governor took steps concerning the Subways and our Homeless. It’s been now changed and will be appended daily with quotes from the Mayor as they pertain to this subject. Our intention is to also offer up a glimpse into the mindset of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wherein our Homeless problems are concerned. This page will also serve as a reference point to look back upon as we head into the future.


Wednesday, April  29:

Governor Cuomo would express his concerns over whether the subways were clean enough to protect our frontline workers as well as the homeless against the Coronavirus. We’d also learn of how he’d instructed the MTA on the previous day to come up with a plan.

Governor, “I also commented yesterday, the Daily News had pictures of things that are going on in the New York City subway system, where the cars were filthy, they were disgusting. Homeless people were there with all their belongings and it was not just a Daily News picture, it reflected what has been in the press and what people have been saying, which is the deterioration of the conditions in the subways. Some crimes are up in the subways, even though ridership is down 90 percent. I don’t even know how mathematically that is possible. The trains are filled with homeless people. You’re not doing the homeless any favor. I’ve worked with the homeless all my life. To let homeless people stay on the trains in the middle of a global health pandemic with no masks, no protective equipment, you’re not helping the homeless.”

“Letting them endanger their own life and endanger the lives of others is not helping anyone. I told the MTA yesterday, in two days, which means tomorrow, I want a full plan. How do we disinfect every train every night, period. Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that that train was disinfected the night before. We want them to show up. We don’t want them to stay home. We owe it to them to be able to say, the train you ride, the bus you ride has been disinfected and is clean.”

Thursday, April 30:

Governor Cuomo announces that the subways would close the following week from 1:00 am – 5:00 am for clearning.

Governor Cuomo, “For the first time ever, we’re going to close down service from 1:00 am to 5:00 am. That four-hour shutdown will allow us to disinfect all the trains, New York City subway trains, Metro North that goes North, Long Island Rail Road that goes out to the railroad. Because we have the essential workers, who were so grateful to because they’re coming to work every day even though they know the risks. The people in the hospitals, they food delivery people. We all say thank you. But gratitude is best acted upon, right?”

“I want them to know that they have safe, clean, decent transportation. And that means we have to disinfect the trains every 24 hours. The virus can live on a train for two or three days. So, we’re starting that next week. It’s first time ever. We’ve never disinfected trains like this before. The 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. hours will be covered by the MTA. They’ll provide alternative transportation be it buses or dollar vans, or they’ll use Uber, Lyft, et cetera, if they don’t have a route to get people home.”

On that same day, at the Governor’s Press Conference, Mayor de Blasio would state the following:

“…we go out there day after day to engage homeless people on the streets and the subway, get their trust and get them to come in to shelter and ultimately to permanent housing. This work has always been in some ways stymied by the reality of a homeless person who is struggling with everything they’re dealing with – a mental health challenge, a substance abuse challenge, riding the subway all night long. We’re New Yorkers, we know about this reality, and it’s been put in a stark light by this crisis like so many other challenges and disparities have. Well, it’s an unacceptable reality and this new plan will disrupt that unacceptable reality and allow us to actually get help to people more effectively, because if you’re not going back and forth all night on a train, then you actually are coming above ground where outreach workers are there to help you, where NYPD officer’s training in the homeless outreach are there to support homeless people and get them to a better situation,” said the Mayor.

Friday, May 1

The Mayor, “Someone who is sleeping on a train needs help. We’re here to help them. We’re here to get them to a safe place, a safe haven. And again, we’ve had thousands of street homeless people in the last three years go into safe havens and find them to be safe. And how do we know this? Because they never went back to the streets. … The fact that so many homeless people for years just went back and forth all night on a subway train, that’s not what we should be aspiring to in our city. We should be aspiring to every single person who needs help gets help and safe havens were created in a new way to address the concerns that homeless folks had about safety and it’s working and there’s medical care attached.”

In separate incidents, two homeless men would be found dead within the subway system’s train cars on Friday Evening and Saturday morning on May 2.

Tuesday, May 5

Going forward, we would, almost daily, hear the Mayor address the homelessness issues during his press briefings, which is not to say that they’ve never been a concern to the Mayor. We’re simply outlining recent related developments.

Wednesday, May 6

The closure of the subways begins.

The Mayor shares some snapshot statistics of the previous night’s interactions with the Homeless.

“Last night, 139 homeless individuals out of 252 who were engaged by our outreach workers and by the NYPD officers, specially trained in homeless outreach. 139 individuals agreed to accept support, accept services and come in off the streets, come in out of the subways, this number is extraordinary. First of all, more than half of the people encountered and engaged, agreed to leave the subways to leave the streets and come in and that’s an amazing reality to begin with. But we have more importantly never ever seen so much success in a single night before, we’ve never seen this many people, this higher percentage of people who are living on the streets agree to something different and it’s only one night.”

He would go on to detail how the federal annual survey shows there being between 35,000 and 4,000 people living on the streets of our City streets and subways combined. He would mention those figures on May 6 and the following day as well.

Thursday, May 7

“Last night, our outreach teams engaged 361 homeless New Yorkers coming out of the subways when they shut down 218 of them well over half accepted help. Again, this is the entire core principle of doing this outreach work to constantly open that door. For those who are homeless to realize there’s something else that could be done to make their life better, there’s a different way that could pursue, 218 out of 361 accepted help, that meant 196 went to a safe haven or a shelter, 22 went to a hospital. Remember a lot of homeless folks out there need medical care, it’s about helping them feel the confidence that they can come in and get help. This is an amazing result, now we’ve got a long road ahead, but this is an amazing result. Again, permanently street homeless, New York City federal studies show year after year in recent years, somewhere between about 35,000 and 4,000 people. When 218 coming in one night and then we hope and we pray that with a lot of good work, the vast majority of them will stay in except long-term shelter. And then affordable housing and all the support they need to deal with whatever challenge they have, whether it’s a mental health challenge, a substance abuse challenge, whatever it is.”

Friday, May 8, 2020

“…this is literally historic: the last three days – the last three nights when the trains were closed, outreach workers engaged hundreds of homeless folks and over three nights, 520 homeless individuals agreed to come in to shelter or to get to a medical facility because they needed medical help. 520 people in three days. We’ve never seen anything like that in the history of New York City where so many people agreed to come in simultaneously. And that’s because the outreach workers were there to engage them on a huge scale. And we’ll send more if we need more for sure, but it’s – the numbers speak for themselves. The outreach workers are doing their job in an amazing fashion. Now, there were people last night, for example, they engaged 269 homeless people and 163 accepted help more than 50 percent. That’s amazing. That’s unprecedented to have that kind of success rate. But there’s still others who didn’t – the outreach workers will stick with them. They’re going to stay in touch with those people and keep trying to persuade them to come in. So, we have the biggest outreach effort and the history of New York City and we’ll keep building it as needed. But I don’t want to get confused on why we also had an important police presence in the first days of something unprecedented.”

Sunday, May 10, 2020

“So to give you the reports from the last couple of nights – on Friday night, our homeless outreach workers and trained NYPD officers who focused on homeless outreach, they engaged 416 homeless individuals coming out of the subway in those early morning hours. 212 of them accepted services. 183 went to shelter, 29 went to hospital. Again, amazing, amazing fact. More than half. We’ve seen this every night. That’s – these are numbers that we have literally never seen in our history happened again on Friday night. So what about Saturday night? 384 people engaged in the subway. 198 accepted services, 175 went to shelter, 23 to the hospital. This is just amazing. I mean, this is about changing people’s lives. Think about if someone’s life had come apart over months and years to the point they were living permanently on the street. And now in just a matter of days, hundreds upon hundreds of people accepting services, coming into shelter. Now we’ll be able to get them the mental health support, the substance misuse treatment.”

Monday, May 11, 2020

“Last night, when a subway shutdown for cleaning, our homeless outreach workers and specially trained members of the NYPD were out there to help homeless New Yorkers, to offer them a chance to come in and get support. 261 homeless individuals were engaged, 139 of them accepted help. 116 went to shelter. 23 went to hospitals. Again, numbers we’ve never seen ever in the history of the city – such an extraordinary number of people agreeing to take help, agreeing to take the first step towards a very different life. It’s early to say the least, just six days, but they’ve been very, very consistent. And when I look at the sheer number of people whose lives now could be changed, it really gives me hope that we’re going to be able to get a number of homeless people once and for all off the streets, into a better life. So, another good day for this new initiative.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

“And we’re now one week into the experience of having the subways shut down in the late-night hours for cleaning and experiencing each night, what that means for our outreach efforts to connect with the homeless and bring them in. Consistent results now, every single night, last night, 362 individuals were engaged by our outreach workers and again, specially trained police officers who work with the homeless, 360 to engage 211 accepted help, 178 went to shelter, 33 went to hospitals. Every single night, we’re seeing the same things, high level of engagement, large number of homeless individuals being engaged, the majority accepting help. We’ve never seen that before, it keeps happening night after night, I’m sure it won’t happen perfectly consistently every night. But if the first week is any indication this is a game changer and we’re going to put everything we’ve got into making this work because I think it could fundamentally change the future of homelessness in the City for the better and get a really large number of people off the streets once and for all.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

“Now, I mentioned homeless New Yorkers. I want to keep updating you on the efforts to reach homeless New Yorkers related to this new plan to clean the subways each night and amplify the opportunities for our homeless outreach workers to reach homeless people and get them to safety and get them to a better life. Here [inaudible] the results from last night – 370 homeless individuals were engaged, 213 accepted help, 178 went to shelter, 35 to hospitals. Again, I’ve said it enough times and not going to repeat it; unprecedented results and the trend continues now for over a week very, very consistently. And this, if we can sustain this, it’s going to have a very long-term and positive impact reducing homelessness in New York City.”

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