NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An unprecedented effort is underway to disinfect the subways. For the first time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has shut down the system during overnight hours to clean the trains and stations and clear out the homeless.

But what became of all those people? CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas found out on Wednesday.

The shutdown has been touted as a way to disinfect the trains and stations, but it’s also meant to get the homeless out of the system.

It came amidst mounting pressure from transit workers and riders who sounded the alarm on a growing problem.

“I think it is going to open the door wider getting even more people off the streets,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

More than 1,000 officers descended into the stations late Tuesday night. At the end of the lines they were joined by nurses and homeless outreach teams to provide assistance.

Of the 252 people they engaged, 139 accepted services. Most went to shelters, while the rest were bound for hospitals, including two who were taken involuntarily.

“We’ve never seen this many people, this high a percentage of people, who are living on the streets agree to something different,” de Blasio said.


Josh Goldfein, a homeless rights advocate with the Legal Aid Society, was also out monitoring the city’s efforts.

“It was terrifying. There were people who were clearly impaired who were in need of assistance. There were also people who were just afraid to go into a shelter and didn’t know where they were going to go,” Goldfein said.

With outreach services only available at limited stations, it’s unclear how many were removed without access to help.

FLASHBACK: Police Crack Down On Homeless Individuals Sleeping On Subways, In Stations As Cuomo Calls For Increase In Train Cleanings

Goldfein said this is a social issue, not one needing law enforcement.

“The city should use social work staff and outreach staff, rather than law enforcement staff, and offer people access to space where they can isolate themselves,” Goldfein said.

There are real concerns about catching the virus in a shelter, but without going to one it’s hard to get into one of the city’s hotel rooms.

With no arrests or summonses, city leaders said the first night of enforcement was a success, one they acknowledge will take a lot more to truly address the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Comments (6)
  1. J H says:

    LOL the Corovirus is actually removing homeless out the trains lol More then what the mayor is doing LOL WHAT A SHAME!

  2. John Gamble says:

    It’s quite apparent Mr. Goldfein doesn’t ride the subways.It’s long enough that those NYers who do have had to endure the torture of riding in a car during rush hour that was half empty despite the high volume of commuters at that time due to the gag inducing stench emanating from a homeless person encamped in that car. Subways are transportation, not habitation. DiBlasio is largely to blame for this. If he truly cared about the homeless, the majority living in subways who are suffering from psychological ailments, he would enact policies and programs that would actually help them, instead of ignoring their needs. I guess he thinks he’s showing everyone that his empathy is so vast that he wouldn’t dare violate the civil liberties of anyone by insisting they receive care no matter how destitute they are, but all he’s really doing is exercising willful neglect under the guise of virtue signalling.

  3. Andrew C says:

    More clickbait news – how is this a “terrifying” situation?? Homeless not having broad access to services or not wanting to go to available shelters is far from a new phenomenon. What’s terrifying is the uptick in crime, subway disrepair, and increased allowance for vagrancy.

  4. Wayne Wong says:

    Well Mr. Goldfein you can take some to your house. Why don’t you look into welfare fraud while you are at it. Too many lazy get over people out there.

    1. sassygirl8318 says:

      Wayne, I was thinking the same thing. DeBlasio should take some home too! It’s sad, but he has done nothing to help the citizens of this city. Vagrancy, crime, are all up, regardless of how he tries to spin.

      1. Wayne Wong says:

        Seriously how much more can NY’ers take. It’s not just Mayor Wilhelm AKA DeBlasio but the others that think its free. We all have to be responsible. For the crime issue watch Baretta the TV show. Welfare fraud is so vast so that we can actually produce a surplus. BTW fraud is a crime too! Subways are so much better the last two days. People were actually saying how clean and nice smelling it was! As for the homeless we have 5 thousand empty cell at Rikers now. They can be safe there so I really do not want to hear they got no place to go. Rehab the ones that really want to part of society again and leave the rest behind in Rikers! Nice safe cells with a toilet and a bed. Just add a small TV and an IKEA chair.

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