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New York mayor plans to clear homeless with mental illness from streets

A plan to hospitalize those experiencing homelessness who have mental illness is receiving backlash despite the mayor’s promise of help

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Homeless Outreach personnel reach out to a person sleeping on a bench in the Manhattan subway system.

Homeless Outreach personnel reach out to a person sleeping on a bench in the Manhattan subway system on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, in New York. In New York City’s latest effort to address a mental health crisis on its streets and subways, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday, Nov. 29, that authorities would more aggressively intervene to help people in need of treatment, saying there was “a moral obligation” to do so, even if it means providing care to those who don’t ask for it.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

In an effort to help the homeless population who are dealing with mental illness, New York City’s mayor has called for involuntary hospitalization as part of the city’s plan to fight homelessness.

Early in November, Mayor Eric Adams implemented a new initiative called “Housing Our Neighbors: A Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness,” focused on bettering health and housing for those who are experiencing homelessness in the city in four main areas, per the city’s website.

Those focus areas include navigating services, making more room for hospital beds, creating 650 units of affordable housing on the hospital grounds and providing social service support for permanent housing.

Adams said that this recent push for mandatory hospitalization is part of the larger picture, meant to find stable housing for those who are homeless after they receive treatment.

“It’s not enough to care for unhoused New Yorkers in the emergency room and then discharge them if they have no home to recover and heal in,” said Adams at the press conference kicking off the initiative. “Adults experiencing homelessness have three times as many hospital and emergency visits compared to those with stable housing, so it’s time we finally break this vicious cycle.”

While the plan’s main focus is on creating housing availability for those who are homeless within New York City, the hospitalization step is the current talk of the town and advocates for those who are homeless see this as another way to further marginalize those they serve, as reported by CBS.

Milo Perez, a New Yorker who has been homeless for five years, considers himself an advocate and has been speaking out for quite a while, as reported by The Associated Press in 2021.

“If people know they might be labeled some type of mental health issue, they’ll be involuntarily locked up in a mental hospital, things of that nature,” Perez told CBS. “They’re gonna go deeper underground.”

“Hospitals aren’t the answer,” he said.

Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for Coalition for the Homeless in NYC, told The Wall Street Journal that this mandatory hospitalization has painted those who are homeless as violent because they’re being forced.

CBS reported that the New York Civil Liberties Union sees this as a breach of rights for homeless individuals.

“Acting as if you can sweep a problem out of public view, right, and it will go away,” NYCCLU executive director Donna Lieberman told CBS. “Well, it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t provide the treatment necessary for a long-term solution, and it causes great harm to individuals who are, themselves, hurting quite a bit.”

New York City Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. supported the initiative and said in the press release, per Cityland, that “health and housing are inextricably linked, especially for those experiencing homelessness.”