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Examining The Effectiveness Of NYC's Homeless Outreach Program Amid Subway Shutdown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There are new photos of overcrowded homeless shelters that seem to be at odds with the city, which has been celebrating its new plan to get the homeless out of the subways.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas took a look at all sides of the ongoing story.

Cline-Thomas arrived at the World Trade Center station - the last stop on the E train - just over an hour before the 1 a.m. shutdown.

As trains arrived, police officers surveyed each car, ushering the homeless out, while asking if they needed services. Outreach teams stepped in for those who agreed, calling locations to see where there's space, and then put individuals on waiting shuttle buses, often headed to shelters. Others went to the hospital.

"It's not safe riding the train all night being a single woman," one woman said. "So I'm kind of glad that they did come up."

In the first week of this initiative, 824 people considered chronically homeless accepted help like this, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.


"So we've got to break the vicious cycle that held people in a life that was truly dangerous and unhealthy and not anything we want to see a human being live in. This is a very promising sign," he said.

But now, only 103 remain in shelters. The rest may have stayed for hours, or not entered the building at all.

Cline-Thomas asked those who know first hand why so many don't stay.

"Sometimes abuse, sometime things happen, fights among themselves," one person said. "The craziness, the noise, people peeing on the floor."

A photo from the New York Post may begin to explain why. It shows people sleeping on the floor of an overcrowded Bellevue men's shelter. It's why the mayor and city leaders are under fire for touting this initiative as a success, especially raising health concerns.

Commissioner Steven Banks oversees the shelter system.

"Those photographs to me are heartbreaking. They don't represent our work. We have to do better and we will do better," he said.

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Cline-Thomas contacted the Department of Homeless Services to get more information about this initiative, specifically the metrics used to track it, but they declined her request for an on-camera interview with the commissioner.

But on Friday morning, vans arrived at a hotel in Long Island City from various stations with just a handful of men, a move homeless advocates say should be used and results in better and safer outcomes.

The Department of Homeless Services says the options depend on each person's needs.

By many accounts, now far fewer homeless people are being removed from the subways. During the warm night, some just found a place outside the entrance of the South Ferry station.

Is this initiative helping, or just pushing them further into the shadows?

The NYPD initially dedicated more than 1,000 officers to the initiative. That number is now down to 600.

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