City agencies are dismantling more than 100 homeless encampments across the five boroughs within a matter of weeks. It's the latest initiative by Mayor Eric Adams to get unhoused New Yorkers into shelter.
“We know how to survive. We’re out here surviving," said Heri Berto Medina Jr., who has lived under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for two years. “We never had an incident here because we look out for each other,” he added.
What was once a community to Medina is now just a parking lot due to the new initiative by Mayor Adams.
“You bring a whole army like we’re a threat," said Medina. "Nobody called the cops. Nothing happened here.”
The NYPD and Department of Sanitation cleared out the homeless encampment Monday.
“We get targeted every time something happens. The homeless. The homeless. The homeless. There are people that commit crimes that are not homeless,” Medina said.
In a statement, the mayor’s office said the city is ramping up efforts to connect unhoused New Yorkers with social services. But Medina said staying in a shelter is not an option.
“I was staying in a shelter for a couple months. I kept getting my stuff stolen,” he said. “I told myself I’ll never go back to a shelter. I refuse to go back to a shelter, unless I am in a room by myself.”
The mayor has said though that living on the street is more dangerous, he can’t legally force people into shelters. Homeless outreach workers were on site Monday to help Medina and other people find a place to stay. Medina said he’s grateful for the support, but what he really needs is long-term housing.
“I just wanna get indoors. Cold weather, I don’t mind. I’ve been through this. But I like to rest where I can keep both my eyes closed and actually rest comfortably,” Medina said.
The mayor's office has identified 150 homeless encampments across the city. Its goal is to remove them all by this Friday, and after that, the task force will check for new ones.