“If we’re really invested in stopping and ultimately ending this horrific blight of hatred and violence in opposition to people who find themselves homeless, we should work to finish homelessness itself. This may be completed in two phases: instantly providing stabilization beds to New Yorkers residing on the road, and offering everlasting reasonably priced housing.”
One weekend in mid-March, homeless New Yorkers skilled a series of tragic attacks, together with one deadly and one non-fatal capturing by a gunman who had beforehand focused sleeping homeless males in a similar way in Washington D.C. Over the identical weekend, a 3rd homeless man was discovered useless within the space, though his demise was not attributed to the identical perpetrator.
Whereas these assaults are horrific, they aren’t new, and they need to not shock us. In 2019, a series of attacks on males sleeping on the road left 4 useless, simply one of many extra surprising cases in a now-regular sample of mindless violence focusing on the homeless neighborhood.
Till we loudly demand a radically completely different strategy, New Yorkers tacitly condone the structural violence that made final yr the deadliest year on record for unhoused New Yorkers. Final month’s violence represents a confluence of so lots of the public questions of safety which have gripped our metropolis’s consideration and the brand new mayor’s administration for the reason that new yr: gun violence, homelessness and subway security, hate violence, “high quality of life” politics and policing, and the questionable function of policing in neighborhood security. We is not going to mince phrases: when our leaders vilify sure populations and disrespect confirmed, evidence-based options, the outcomes are lethal.
READ MORE: 2021 Was Deadliest Year on Record for Homeless New Yorkers
Initially of the pandemic, nationwide leaders and right-wing media vilified Asian communities at residence and overseas, blaming them for the concern we had been all experiencing. The end result was an unprecedented uptick in anti-Asian violence. Equally, with New York Metropolis experiencing a rise in sure forms of violent crime, and New Yorkers understandably fearful and on the lookout for solutions, our leaders have vilified the town’s homeless neighborhood, utilizing them as a scapegoat and blaming them for the town’s issues. Mayor Eric Adams likened the homeless population to a “cancer” that have to be eliminated to heal the town; that sort of fear-mongering and alienation encourages us to view our homeless brothers and sisters as lower than human, because the supply of society’s ills, and as unworthy of respect, of housing, or of life.
That dehumanization has been hitched to the administration’s messaging round “public security” —and hit a brand new low just lately when Adams launched his “Subway Security Plan.” Claiming to prioritize the safety of “paying clients,” the plan deploys cops to brush the homeless out of the subway system, though the overwhelming majority will solely find yourself sleeping on the road, uncovered not solely to the weather however to violence as properly. Irrespective of that the homeless are more likely to suffer violence than commit it, or that the majority subway violence is dedicated by non-homeless folks (for instance, seven of eight attacks throughout one significantly unhealthy weekend in February).
Whereas Adams’s plan did embrace further outreach groups to encourage and join people to companies, it’s doomed to fail as a result of it doesn’t deal with the basis reason for homelessness—an absence of steady, everlasting, reasonably priced housing. There was no point out of stopping folks from turning into homeless within the first place, or of discovering methods to put folks into the forms of everlasting housing that advocates and folks experiencing homelessness themselves have been asking for for many years. Additional, the empty guarantees in Adams’s “Subway Security Plan” are at odds together with his proposed preliminary price range—an austerity price range—which truly cuts funding to the city’s homeless services agency, which “would see a fifth of its working price range and 131 unfilled positions slashed.”
READ MORE: Mayor’s Budget Plan Cuts $615M from Homeless Services, as Subway Crackdown Intensifies
If we’re really invested in stopping and ultimately ending this horrific blight of hatred and violence in opposition to people who find themselves homeless, we should work to finish homelessness itself. This may be completed in two phases: instantly providing stabilization beds to New Yorkers residing on the road, and offering everlasting reasonably priced housing.
Homeless New Yorkers residing on the streets or in subways, lobbies, and different weak areas should instantly be provided stabilization beds in lodge rooms, in order that they can’t be focused of their sleep. We’ve got proof from early within the COVID-19 pandemic that this feature works: when provided non-public rooms with fewer guidelines and restrictions than shelters have, people had been more likely to just accept and to remain.
After the final month’s tragic assaults, Adams merely doubled down on his “Subway Security Plan” by growing outreach groups to encourage people who find themselves homeless to maneuver into the town’s shelters. We don’t want extra cops, extra empty outreach, or extra convincing; we want higher choices and extra housing. Individuals don’t feel safe sufficient to sleep within the shelters, whether or not as a result of violence they’ve been uncovered to there, attributable to COVID, or any variety of different causes. That’s why people reside on the road or within the subway within the first place.
Now, Adams is popping his sights to the one different various folks have once they can’t shelter in subways: the streets. Inside weeks of the extremely publicized string of assaults on homeless New Yorkers, video footage confirmed cops and Division of Sanitation staff demolishing an encampment below the Brooklyn- Queens Expressway in Williamsburg. Town supplied no clear plan to offer protected, steady housing to the folks shedding their belongings whereas RealFeel Temperatures hit 10 levels Fahrenheit.
Whereas Adams has since claimed to be honoring advocates’ and homeless activists’ calls for by growing the variety of Secure Haven beds out there, the brand new web site within the Bronx contains 14-bed congregate rooms—which shouldn’t be confused with the protected and personal setting individuals are asking for. Altering the definition of “protected haven” and twisting phrases and guarantees is not going to foster belief.
Finally, we all know—and New Yorkers surveyed agree—that we are going to not make the town safer by including extra cops, whether or not they’re despatched to our subways to take away homeless New Yorkers with none plan for the place they’ll go, or to our streets within the identify of lowering gun violence regardless of a confirmed historical past of racist enforcement and violence.
After we criminalize homelessness, because the mayor’s “Subway Security Plan” does, we’re placing the obstacles to security, stability, well being, and housing even greater for our neighbors in want. We can not proceed funding policing whereas defunding the very packages that create the circumstances for true security. Somewhat than blaming the least lucky for our issues, we urge politicians and New Yorkers to affix the motion that may construct a neighborhood of compassion, the place we uplift essentially the most weak not solely with our phrases however with our our insurance policies, actions, and price range.
Brandon West is a Brooklyn-based labor organizer, a former senior price range analyst for the Workplace of Administration of Finances and Metropolis Council, and a 2021 candidate for Metropolis Council.
Alicia Singham Goodwin is a Harlem-based researcher and organizer targeted on gun violence, drug coverage, and decriminalization.
This op-ed was written along with the Racial Justice Working Group of NYC-DSA, an area department of the Nationwide Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and of which West and Singham Goodwin are members. DSA is the most important leftist group in america — and helps the folks’s demand to defund the police and abolish the jail industrial complicated. DSA works collaboratively with labor unions and grassroots organizations to construct a mass, multiracial, democratic abolitionist motion.