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Sunday, July 25, 2021

NYC recovery challenged by spike in homelessness

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NYC recovery challenged by spike in homelessness
NYC recovery challenged by spike in homelessness

Times Square and the surrounding areas have been overrun with homeless and mentally ill people, an unfortunate fallout from the health crisis, officials say.

Lisa Bernhard produced this report.

As workers begin to return to the streets of Manhattan, many are confronted by a bleak reality shared by far too many of their fellow New Yorkers – a record rise in homelessness.

[SHARAN MOHAN, MIDTOWN MANHATTAN RESIDENT / WITH MAN PICKING THROUGH TRASH CAN IN BACKGROUND]: "I see a lot of people, a lot of homeless people, people out of work, people begging sometimes, people sleeping on the streets, things like that." As of February, the number of single adults sleeping in city-run shelters reached an all-time high of nearly 21,000, according to a report by the Coalition for the Homeless.

On a recent day, the 12 blocks between Herald Square, famed for its Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade festivities, and Times Square, home to the normally bustling theater district, commuters passed several people struggling with addiction or other health issues, and forced to panhandle.

[RACHEL GOLDSTEIN, WORKS IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN]: "They make me feel like I wish I wasn't ignoring the people or stepping over people on my way to the office.

That's like a pretty awful thing to have to do." The shut-down exacerbated the plight of many New Yorkers, says Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition of the Homeless.

"When things shut down and a lot of medicine kind of switched to tele-health and people's appointments, maybe got canceled, people got disconnected from care.” Since the start of the health crisis, the city relocated about 10,000 homeless people to empty commercial hotels – many in and around Times Square and nearby Penn Station.

Harassment of commuters has been an issue, says Terence Monahan, a senior safety advisor to the mayor’s office.

"In the past, the NYPD was putting two to four cops a day there.

Now they're dedicating 48 cops a day into the Penn Station area.

But it can't just be the police." Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris said his group helps send “community navigators” into the streets to help the homeless reclaim their lives: “…so that we can get to the root cause of their problem, so that we can solve those problems and return them to productive members of society." Sabrina Gatlin is among those receiving social services.

"It's been going on two years.

I'm clean and sober.

I have my ups and my downs.

I'm human.

But I get up every morning and I try and try again.” And more hope is on the way.

Late last month, the City Council voted overwhelmingly to expand a subsidy program to make housing more affordable to those who are homeless or threatened with eviction.