Homeless New Yorkers and Advocates Question Cuomo’s Call to Crackdown on Subway Transients

A letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo instructing the MTA to address “the increasing problem of homelessness on the subways” has prompted questions from homeless New Yorkers, advocates and transit workers who wonder why the person with power over housing and social service policy is passing the buck to a transportation agency.

The Coalition for the Homeless, the state’s leading advocacy organization, reported that 133,284 different people, including more than 45,600 children, spent at least one night in a New York City municipal homeless shelter last fiscal year.

On July 18, there were 58,164 people, including 20,861 children, in municipal shelters, according to the Department of Homeless Services’ most recent daily census. An untold number of unstably housed men, women and children whose names do not appear on an apartment lease stay with family, friends and associates, or sleep in privately run shelter settings, like church basements.

Cuomo, however, seemed to refer to the relatively small, but very visible, percentage of homeless individuals who sleep on the street or in public spaces, like the subway system. They have fallen through holes in the most basic social safety net — temporary, emergency housing.

“Homeless people often pose a danger to themselves and others,” Cuomo said in the letter. “Let’s actually focus on helping the homeless, rather than political posturing. This is not an issue of helping the homeless or the subway riders; that is a false choice. We must serve both.”

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