According to the MTA, the homeless population in the subway system has grown more than 20 percent in the past year, to nearly 2,200.
By Forum Staff
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Friday announced a series of actions to address the growing challenge of homeless people using the transit system as an ill-equipped, de facto shelter.
In July, the MTA formed a task force with OTDA, the State Department of Health, the State Office of Mental Health, and the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to make certain recommendations to improve the situation and ensure these individuals are receiving the necessary services.
The task force’s recommendations include:
Enhanced outreach and expanded oversight of NYC outreach efforts: On an emergency basis, OTDA will continue to mobilize teams to deliver enhanced homeless outreach within the transit system, and require the City Department of Homeless Services to enhance its existing homeless services on a permanent basis to better address the needs of those who are inappropriately seeking shelter in the transit system. OTDA will continuously evaluate the need to provide direct services, and will stop providing them when the situation has improved and can be sustained by DHS alone. OTDA will regularly review and monitor DHS’ enhanced efforts to ensure they are adequately serving the population, holding DHS and its contractors to strict performance standards, MTA officials noted.
Expanded police force: The MTA has indicated that it will grow its police force by more than half to keep the transportation system safe and secure. A portion of the expanded force will support the outreach efforts to help those in need access shelter or other services.
Educate the public on the MTA Rules of Conduct: The MTA has promised to undertake an effort to better educate the public about applicable rules and regulations, and improve compliance, and will partner with OTDA and other agencies on an information campaign so that the public is aware of assistance available to the homeless.
Increased interagency cooperation: The MTA has pledged to better coordinate with DHS and OTDA, as well as other appropriate partners, to support outreach efforts and so that resources are used effectively to reduce the number of homeless in the transit system and connect those in need with housing and services.
Oversight by MTA Inspector General: In order to maximize transparency, improve outcomes, and verify that services are being delivered by MTA, NYC, and relevant partners in an efficient and effective manner, it is recommended the MTA Inspector General oversee and evaluate the implementation of the above recommendations and other related efforts on a regular basis.
According to the MTA, the homeless population in the subway system has grown more than 20 percent in the past year, to nearly 2,200. This is a disproportionate increase compared with rates experienced citywide and is not sustainable by the system, officials said.
“It is imperative that individuals experiencing homelessness inappropriately seeking shelter in the subway and elsewhere across the state are able to access the services they need, including proper health care,” said State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D. “Safe and secure housing is critical for public health.”