AUTHORDavid Brand DATEMarch 30, 2022 CITY LIMITS
The Adams administration has touted Safe Havens as an alternative for those who would rather sleep outside than in a traditional homeless shelter. But there are too few of the facilities to accommodate the majority of unsheltered New Yorkers.
After more than a year sleeping in parked cars and city parks, Michael Torres got a chance to try something new earlier this month.
When a bed opened up in a Safe Haven shelter near Crotona Park, Torres, 45, received a referral from an outreach team and moved into a room he shares with one other person.
Safe Havens have fewer restrictions than most facilities in the city’s sprawling shelter system and allow people to come and go as they please. Along with similar so-called stabilization shelters, they are designed to appeal to homeless New Yorkers, like Torres, who have left or avoided other congregate facilities—typically due to autonomy, privacy or safety considerations—and have instead opted to bed down in public spaces. The arrangement is not perfect—Torres says he really wants a permanent apartment—but the flexibility is working for him.
“I don’t need a curfew,” Torres said outside a Manhattan drop-in center Tuesday. “I just need to eat a bowl of oatmeal and go out looking for work.”
The specialized shelters also feature on-site services and, ideally, a pathway to housing via case managers and social workers who assist residents with rental subsidy or supportive housing applications.
But there are too few of the facilities to accommodate the majority of unsheltered New Yorkers. That means outreach workers can rarely offer placement to people in need, even as police, under the direction of Mayor Eric Adams, drive them off the trains and sanitation workers throw their belongings into garbage trucks. Adams, who came into office pledging to evict homeless New Yorkers from the subway system, said last Friday that he also plans to order the removal of every homeless encampment in the city, stepping up a practice that his predecessor Bill de Blasio accelerated at the tail end of his tenure.
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