Homeless in NYC Subways — and the MTA

By Bill Bratton

Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News

While Governor Cuomo's instructions to the MTA Board (as seen here in the NY Daily News) to do something about the homeless problems in the subway is laudable, acknowledging what the system's six million riders have been experiencing for the last several years, I don't anticipate any improvement as evidenced by the failure of past and continuing multi-million dollar initiatives.


In 1990, when I took over the then-separate New York City Transit Police Department, there were 5,000 homeless and service resistant people 'living' in the subway system. Over a hundred of them died in that system every year.  


We significantly reduced the homeless population and associated problems because we had laws, tools, and alternatives (many more beds for the emotionally impaired in hospital facilities-which continue to be eliminated), as well as a political administration willing to do something.  


Most of those tools and 'beds' no longer exist, even as the proportion of emotionally disabled and drug addicted 'service resistant individuals' have significantly increased. They are the vast majority of what is incorrectly described as the homeless population. Even if space were available, and it is not, this service resistant population so badly in need of long-term care is never going to voluntarily accept assistance.


Over the last 30 years, we have created a perfect catch 22 problem that increasingly defies resolution. I'm an eternal optimist, I came to New York in 1990, the worst crime and disorder year in the 20th century believing I could help to do something about those co-joined problems — and we did.


I wish I could be more optimistic about solving this problem in the current political climate.

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