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As the Big Apple makes the vaccine readily available and many return underground for work and other outings, the fallout is apparent on subway platforms and rail cars.
Individuals doze off in sleeping bags as hordes of shoes pass by while others curl up in blankets and stretch out on benches. However, the scene inside the trains themselves can be even worse.
From drunk, shoeless vagrants, slumped unconscious with their feet resting on crumpled newspapers, to men sitting in a pile of garbage and strewn food as the car slowly drives towards the station Next, it is clear that the recent increase in human traffic has done nothing to prevent platforms, winding tunnels and trains from becoming makeshift shelters.
Sympathy and anger
For some New Yorkers, this is just life in a big city; for others it is an eyesore, and some runners even consider it a danger.
Beth Ellor is an Englishwoman originally from London, but has lived in New York for over 50 years and says she uses the subway every day. Although she believes that many homeless people have been evicted, she says she must ensure her safety.
“I watch them because some of them can be erratic, but I’m mostly sorry for them because I think it’s a shame what they’re going through,” Ellor said. She shared that she believes the homeless have struggled even more since the pandemic.
However, now that the MTA is fully open and the city is trying to regain some semblance of normalcy, the sight of the homeless doesn’t make Ellor feel unsafe – only sympathetic.
Gabrielle Gruaner disagrees, saying the situation makes her uncomfortable.
“Roaming on the train is still very serious. It worries me a lot, it’s bad. I think they don’t take enough care of them because they don’t have places to go, and I think it’s increasing. It doesn’t make me guess to take the metro, but it makes me want to be more careful, ”said Gruaner. “I have had people who have met my face in the subway, and it makes me nervous because COVID is still there. Most homeless people are a bit crazy and don’t wear masks. “
When the pandemic first hit New York City, the 24/7 subway service was shut down for a deep clean. During this process, the homeless were forced to give up sleeping at night on benches and train car seats.
The city’s awareness is still insufficient
The MTA said it has worked with the city’s Social Services Department and the Homeless Services Department (DSS-DHS) to identify key areas where services can be offered.
In order to facilitate this transition process, the DSS-DHS continued its ongoing efforts to engage these people to meet them at more than 24 end-of-line stations, offering proximity services and even direct transportation for those who accept help.
Today, DSS-DHS says that effort has helped 800 formerly homeless people stay in shelters.
According to the January 2021 Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) survey, there were 2,376 homeless people on the streets last winter, which is a 38% drop from just last year. before the peak of the pandemic.
However, with the housing crisis in the worst condition the city has seen in decades, vagrant leagues continue to spend the majority of their time sleeping, begging and living mostly underground.
City agencies say they have worked tirelessly alongside the MTA to build on progress made throughout the pandemic, accelerating placement of clients who accept services, targeting priority resources to help people unprotected exiting the subway via Safe Haven and bed stabilization, and more.
Likewise, the MTA says the authority has also installed more security cameras and technology to provide forensic capacity identifying where the issues lie and how to deal with them in the future.
“What are we doing besides supporting the city in this regard? We keep putting more police and security forces out there to fix the issues and it’s not so much about homelessness per se, but about any bad behavior or inappropriate action, like relieving yourself on the train and the problems in this regard, ”said the security chief of the MTA. and Safety Patrick Warren told amNewYork Metro, stressing that roaming is a city responsibility.
“It is a responsibility of the city. Homelessness is a societal problem which is a problem for the city, and we like everyone in the city are feeling the consequences that the fact that homelessness is there and it enters the spaces ”, did he declare. “We keep asking the city, this is one of the great things that we do, to step up more and more social services and the police which tend to help social services by trying to make sure that people are being moved to places where people can help them. The city has grown stronger in many ways with more social services and more police. That being said, there are still perceptions and they are real and until that turning point is turned, we will continue to ask the city to do more. “
Security has also been tightened due to the increase in violence in the subway, such as anti-Asian attacks and several cuts, which has led the NYPD to be more present underground, which has allowed some passengers like Gruaner to feel a little more comfortable.
At the same time, she also believes that the police presence should be concentrated on the lower trains and platforms rather than on the upper levels.
“I have the impression that the officers are still upstairs and that they should be more at the metro level where there are a lot of homeless people,” said Gruaner.
Dr Michael Doherty also noticed this about the NYPD, although his concern is not centered on the same issue.
Dr Doherty has used public transportation throughout the pandemic and for this frontline worker homelessness has always been a problem in New York City. However, he believes agents are doing little in terms of protection and are just spending their time monitoring scammers.
“I don’t like where they are, like they’re trying to stop people from taking the metro for free instead of being on the metro trains and being available for help. . I don’t like it because it seems their main concern is making sure people don’t take the metro for free rather than protecting people when they need to be, ”said Dr Doherty.
As gun and knife violence continues to increase across the city, the subway system is joining the recent wave of crime by becoming a black mark during the Big Apple recovery process in the eyes of many, but the MTA and DSS-DHS say this is something they are committed to fighting.
According to the NYS Mental Hygiene Act, a person cannot be forced to accept DSS-DHS services.
DSS-DHS says it understands the homelessness’ mistrust of government and continues to build relationships to understand their specific situations and in doing so slowly build rapport.
Still, this process is difficult as the city, the MTA, and the NYPD are working in partnership to make the subway system safer. With more than 6,000 buses, 6,000 trains, it’s a colossal undertaking on a moving target.