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NYC will double down on outreach efforts for homeless individuals on the subway

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The new efforts are part of a joint operation between the Department of Homeless Services and the NYPD

A person covered with a winter jacket sitting on a NYC subway station bench. Photo by Louise Wateridge/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Image

Back in January, a federally-mandated HOPE survey (which has been long criticized for its limitations) found that there were 2,178 individuals sleeping in NYC’s subway on one winter night—a 23 percent increase from what the survey found in 2018. Today, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced an expansion to the city’s HOME-STAT outreach efforts to assist them.

The new efforts, part of a joint operation between DHS and the NYPD, will include a command center (known as the Crisis Coordination Center) focused on helping homeless individuals relocate from the subway and accept city services. To do this, outreach efforts will be ramped up and live camera feeds will be used to identify and respond to quality of life and safety issues.

Through the Crisis Coordination Center, the city aims to partner with agencies, like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to provide specialized support to individuals considered “entrenched” by HOME-STAT outreach teams (having been engaged with them 50 or more times on a one-year period) and who often have overlapping challenges, including mental illness and substance misuse. The city notes, though, that the majority of unsheltered homeless individuals that HOME-STAT workers encounter are considered transient.

The coordination center will also have access to live Transit Bureau CCTV feeds that will allow the agencies involved to monitor the transit network in real time.

The NYPD’s Subway Diversion pilot initiative, aimed at diverting homeless individuals in subway cars and stations from the criminal justice system, began last month in Manhattan and will expand to the five boroughs. Through the program, instead of receiving civil summonses when violating a NYC transit rule (such as fare evasion or lying outstretched), homeless individuals are offered referrals to a shelter and other services.

“This collaborative, interagency approach leverages the NYPD’s intelligence and expertise to help those in need of assistance, not punishment,” NYPD chief of transit Edward Delatorre said in a statement.

HOME-STAT outreach teams offer services to unsheltered homeless individuals both above ground in Midtown and on the subways, but only in certain “high-activity” stations. Now, these outreach efforts will get to additional stations where the NYPD will manage spaces offering resources and refreshments.

“Homelessness is not a crime and New Yorkers who are not violating subway rules cannot be ejected from the system for simply experiencing homelessness,” the de Blasio administration said in a statement.