NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is firing back against criticism over his handling of homeless encampments in New York City.

Advocates from homeless groups like Picture the Homeless say when the mayor’s administration clears out groups of homeless people who are living on the streets, it violates their civil rights; and the Justice Department appears to agree, WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported.

But de Blasio said many of the settlements have been in place for more than a decade, and with mattresses in the open air and people doing drugs together, they’re not humane places for people to live.

“They are not humane. They’re not fair to the people in them and they’re not fair to the surrounding communities,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said the site cleanups are announced numerous times before action is taken. Social workers join police and sanitation crews at the encampments, according to de Blasio, in an effort to offer drug and mental illness counseling.

De Blasio insists many homeless people who are removed from encampments are now receiving help from the city.