NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With transit crime on the rise and service returning 24/7, New York City is mounting a new and concerted effort to get the homeless off the subway, flooding three key locations with extra outreach workers.
It seems incidents like a homeless man shoving 29-year-old Ryan Shoenherr onto the Atlantic Avenue subway tracks and a homeless man found unconscious on the floor inside Penn Station, apparently passed out from K2 synthetic marijuana, likely spurred city officials to act.
As mass transit returns to 24/7 service, city Human Resources Commissioner Steven Banks told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer the city is taking over outreach efforts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at three key locations — Penn Station, Atlantic Avenue and Jamaica.
“Is that in response to this perception that many of the crimes that have been committed have been committed by homeless people with mental health issues?” Kramer asked.
“It’s actually we want to build upon the success of getting 800 people off the subways during the shutdown. Now that the shutdown is over, we want to make sure that we’re present where our clients are gonna be,” Banks said.
In an exclusive interview with CBS2, Banks said that the decision was based on the fact that the city can provide more comprehensive services.
“We think that will help people accept services and we can have a greater impact in getting people inside into low-barrier shelter beds as opposed to being in commuter rail stations,” Banks said.
The city is expected to take over the outreach services from the MTA in early June, adding some three dozen extra people. A combination of city staffers and outside contractors.
And as the city reopens, some 60 commercial hotels are still housing the homeless, creating a raft of neighborhood problems, increases in 911 calls, including a rise in drug-dealing assaults, robberies and more.
One area in question, according to police, is the around the Skyline Hotel.
“When are you going to get the homeless people out of hotels?” Kramer asked.
“We’re very much focused on the reopening of the city beginning in the summer, because the atmospherics in the city are moving in the right direction and that’s when we think the time is going to be right,” Banks said.
Kramer also asked the commissioner if he would move to increase voucher allotment so people can move from shelters into private housing. He said that depends on the state. He has asked it to increase its share by several hundred dollars a month.