New York City officials are planning to remove makeshift shelters set up by homeless people on the streets, mirroring similar efforts in other liberal metropolises that had previously tolerated the encampments.
Mayor Eric Adams disclosed the initiative in an interview with The New York Times on Friday.
It comes a month after he announced a push to remove homeless people from the city’s sprawling subway system in response to assaults and other aggressive behaviour.
“We’re going to rid the encampments off our street and we’re going to place people in healthy living conditions with wraparound services,” he told the Times.
“I’m telling my city agencies to do an analysis block by block, district by district, identify where the encampments are, then execute a plan to give services to the people who are in the encampments, then to dismantle those encampments.”
Mr Adams did not say where people living in the encampments would go, and acknowledged officials cannot force anyone to go to a homeless shelter. He expected the effort to begin within two weeks.
“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.
“But you can’t build a miniature house made out of cardboard on the streets. That’s inhumane.”
In its most recent estimate in January 2021, the city said about 1,100 people were living in parks and on the streets – a number seen by many advocates as an undercount. Most of the roughly 50,000 homeless people in the city stay in shelters.
People who are homeless and their advocates have said removing street encampments only results in people moving from one spot to another.
An increasing number of cities across the country including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, have been removing encampments and taking other steps to address homelessness that would have been unheard of years ago.