New York City Mayor Eric Adams is at it again. No, he’s not hurling weird insults at the working class or blaming women for existing after sunset.
Adams has announced a plan to forcibly remove unhoused people appearing to have mental illness from the city. For the unfamiliar, every so often in New York and pretty much every other city in the United States and much of the world, you’ll see a homeless person sleeping on the train or standing outside a corner store. This is not a unique experience and is symptomatic of capitalism, colonial states, and high-density populations. The majority of the time, these people are merely existing, living their life beside everyone else.
Adams’ proposal will increase implementation of the existing “Kendra’s Law,” which allows individuals to be forced into outpatient treatment if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others—even if they are not violent. According to The New York Times, Adams said at City Hall this week, “The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent. Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness.”
Proponents of plans like this would love for us to believe they are a step toward long-term care. In reality, it’s forced imprisonment and very often people (especially homeless people living with varying degrees of mental illness) are detained in a hospital facility for a couple of days or longer before being discharged.
Ultimately, it appears that the city will be rolling out training to police officers, Emergency Medical Services, and medical personnel to determine what actions should be taken in implementing this new plan.
It’s clear that the former police officer and current NYC mayor makes a point to celebrate the NYP whenever the opportunity arises. In late November 2022, Adams publicly thanked the police officers who helped a homeless man who fell on the train tracks. Adams used this moment to justify “why we have been focused on removing homelessness off our subway system.”
But is more cop intervention really the answer?
The Times notes concerns from Harvey Rosenthal, chief executive of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union and co-founder of the Street Homeless Advocacy Project, and City Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán. The three raise concerns that even with additional training, that more police intervention will escalate violence and perpetuate a neverending cycle that the mentally-ill homeless are subjected to.
There’s no denying the fact that the number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. is surging, with the crisis being exacerbated by inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to economists, prices are only going to get higher and unemployment will be on the rise for the next two years. Now that eviction moratoriums are ending and blocky monochromatic luxury apartments are popping up in historically lower and middle-class Black and brown neighborhoods, the number of unhoused people may increase due to displacement.
Recently, California has adopted the Homekey Project, which turns hotels, motels, hostels, apartments, single-family homes, and more into permanent or temporary housing for unhoused people. So far, 8,264 individuals have been housed since the project launched. Part of the program also links with those with resources individuals may need.
Perhaps adopting social programs with actionable solutions could serve the NYC community more in the long run, but time will tell when California’s Homekey Project is further along. In the meantime, it’s hard to think of a plan that wouldn’t be better for New York’s unhoused communities than Adams’ proposal.
(image: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)
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