It is therefore not surprising that so many would choose seemingly more difficult alternatives. During the first 12 days of the city’s camp clearance plan — a period in which 239 temporary shelters were demolished — just five people agreed to go to shelters, even as temperatures plummeted to freezing levels over the past week.
Most of the people living in camps are adult males, and it is with this demographic that the city has had the least success in housing them. In the past decade, as the number of homeless people in families has declined slightly, the number of single men in shelters has roughly doubled to over 14,000. Part of the problem is opposition from communities that are particularly averse to the idea of men’s houses when the city tries to develop them.
Another problem is an inadequate plan for those coming out of prisons and jails. The criminal justice system has moved toward incarceration, but people released from incarceration are nearly 10 times more likely to be homeless. Two years ago, I spoke to a man who was stuck in a shelter in Brooklyn, where he was remanded in custody after violating his parole terms, despite having a girlfriend (and young daughter) with an apartment in Queens who was looking after him wanted to have at home. His experience was so horrific that he told his parole officer that he was leaving the shelter and that she could send him back to Rikers if she wanted because prison was preferable.
People are often reluctant to acknowledge the connection between homelessness and prison, Lincoln Restler, a Brooklyn city councilman, told me. “They don’t want to create stereotypes or fear the homeless,” he said. “But the state government is failing people coming out of prison.”
One of the camps that was removed this week was on a section of Meeker Avenue under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Mr. Restler’s neighborhood, where images of mattresses and other items being thrown into the beds of garbage trucks soon emerged. “During a tornado, Anderson Cooper searches the debris with someone to find a family memento,” noted Ms. Quinn. “That trauma of having things taken from you and thrown away is not going to drive you into ministry. It will scare you.”
Benjamin Adam, a volunteer coordinator for North Brooklyn Essentials, a group that distributes food, clothing and other resources to people living in camps under the freeway, said many of those staying there were Spanish-speaking day laborers working in construction worked. They relied on outreach workers for groceries, batteries, MetroCards, over-the-counter medicines and so on, and Mr. Adam said he believed they would rebuild.
Going forward will depend on the city’s ability to renovate or construct buildings large enough to house individual rooms and bathrooms, recreation spaces, and services for those struggling with mental health or addiction-related issues, where they can live until they can move to permanent housing. While Mayor Adams emphasized in a news conference Wednesday that all people deserve to live with the dignity that tents and other makeshift structures cannot provide and that supportive shelters are vital, his preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year is increasing the capital allocations not the city office for housing and housing construction. The city he envisions is still a long way off.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/02/nyregion/homeless-camps-shelters.html What has changed decades after homeless camps were demolished?