The worst winter in recent memory has, predictably, resulted in a huge influx of homeless individuals taking to the subway lines for shelter. Can’t have that, say the MTA and NYPD, which together planned a 3 a.m. operation for Monday, beginning on the E train, to remove people living underground. “We are not doing this to be cruel to them,” said a New York City Transit official. But, y’know …
Last year, more than 1,800 people were said to be living on the subway, with the number on the rise in recent years.
Following initial reporting on the idea by DNA Info, the MTA toned down its language, insisting the “outreach program” was totally voluntary. (Mayor de Blasio was not involved in the plan, City Hall said.) “It would be illegal to take someone out of the subway,” confirmed an MTA spokesperson, but the individuals will still be offered assistance — during the 3 a.m. sweep — like a bed in a shelter. Those who decline will supposedly not be forced to leave.
Update, February 23, 7:10 p.m.: MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg reports, “we’ve postponed the Monday morning operation just to keep it from being portrayed wrongly.”
We never planned to kick anyone out of the system. Instead, responding to community complaints, we planned to do a joint homeless outreach effort we do all the time all over the place — when the E train got to the end of the line and everyone has to get off while they clean the train, we contact all the seemingly-homeless on the train and ask them if they need services, would like to go to a shelter, etc. It’s the opposite of kicking them off — it’s offering help, and if people don’t want it, they can get on the next train and go their merry way.