MTA announces task force to tackle homeless in subway

The MTA has announced that in the next few days it will launch a task force to deal with the issue of homelessness in New York City's subway system.

According to the MTA, the homeless population in the subway system has risen 23% in 2019. The task force will have 30 days from its creation to create plans focused on housing alternatives and increased resources that will significantly reduce homelessness and panhandling by the end of 2019.  

"Through this task force, we're going to bring together a broad and empowered group that will help us to develop an expedited plan to keep our customers ad workers safe and our trains moving – while providing much-needed resources and assistance to this vulnerable population," said MTA Managing Director Veronique Hakim.

The announcement comes after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sent a letter to the MTA board earlier this month, urging them to address the problem as part of the MTA reorganization plan. The task force will build on the partnership between the MTA and NYPD that have been working to address the problem.

The task force will look at issues like:

  • New metrics for measuring homelessness
  • Updating subway rules and regulations to provide more clarity on what is a violation of the rules
  • Enhanced enforcement of those rules
  • Improved coordination among agencies
  • Best practice engagement techniques and methodology
  • The potential benefit of establishing a dedicated homeless outreach office within the MTA
  • Increased customer communications
  • Additional access to resources for those in need

Officials say that homeless people are increasingly using the subway not for transportation, but for shelter and in some cases, illegal activities which can disrupt service, create delays and pose a risk to other riders. Moreover, by allowing homeless individuals to stay within the system rather than finding them supportive housing or other resources, it poses a risk to their own health and safety. 

Another goal of the task force will be helping social workers distinguish between individuals who are in need of supportive services from those looking to take advantage of passengers.