NYC homeless sweeps: Most people end up leaving shelters

Mayor Eric Adams launched his subway safety plan in February and has repeatedly touted its success. 

But new data obtained by the New York Daily News through a Freedom of Information Law request shows that around 70% of homeless individuals who have been moved into shelters have left within a week of being admitted.

"If you force people to leave where they are and throw away their belongings and don't offer them anything, and what we've seen time and time again, is they will return to the same place or a place like it," Legal Aid Society staff attorney Josh Goldfein explained. 

The data obtained by the Daily News covers two separate homeless outreach efforts, which City Hall calls the Subway Safety Plan and the End of the Line initiative. It shows that from February to August, nearly 2,300 homeless individuals were moved off the subways and into shelters. But out of those people, only 30% actually stayed longer than a week.

Cea Weaver, of the group Housing Justice for All, said many likely end up back on the street, which is why it's critical to focus on affordable housing rather than these sweeps.

"Our shelters are not safe — they are not places where people want to live," Weaver explained. "And we know that the solution to homelessness is housing, it's rental assistance."

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services confirmed that the Adams administration has moved a total of 3,000 homeless people into shelters but only 1,000 are still in a shelter as of this week.

"Under Mayor Adams' Subway Safety Plan, [Department of Social Services-Department of Homeless Services] outreach staff have worked diligently to engage New Yorkers experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the City's subway system and offer DHS shelter services," the spokesperson said. "This is only the beginning. We will continue to build on these efforts and provide a hand up to even more of our unsheltered neighbors in the future."

Many homeless individuals have said they do not feel safe in shelters, and many facilities also have strict rules, like curfews.

Some City Council members are calling for an overhaul of the shelter system and a stronger investment in housing.

"This is arguably our biggest issue right now — the lack of housing," Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said. "But street homelessness and the mental health issues that are associated with that, people are in crisis every single day."

"We need to change the shelter system to something that people want to go to," Councilwoman Gale Brewer said. "That will make a big difference."

These subway outreach programs are separate from the mental health initiative launched by the mayor a few weeks ago, that aims to transfer severely mentally ill homeless individuals to hospitals. So far, the city is also not providing data on how many people are being transferred to care under this initiative as well.