Block Association board members and members of the public have noticed an upsurge in homeless people sleeping on the street or panhandling. One shop keeper refused to call 311 or 911 regarding an unconscious man on the sidewalk because the sight is so common and nothing is done to address the situation long-term, he said.
Not for the first time, complaints have been made about the early morning “homeless encampment” in the 103rd Street subway station. The person making that complaint has not yet heard back from the Transit Police or the 24th Precinct Community Affairs team, despite calling 311.
At the September meeting of the 24th Precinct Community Council, residents voiced complaints about transients from residences on 108th and 104th as well as the random folks sleeping/passed out/ill on the sidewalks. The Community Affairs response was that the upsurge is due to churches giving refuge to Occupy Wall Street participants who come from out-of-state. But the descriptions given by those complaining didn’t fit that profile at all.
Ms. Fermino had a different take. She said that despite their desire to do good, four churches have been overwhelmed by the number of homeless people sleeping on their steps. They are working with the DA to enforce “No Trespassing” rules. Ms. Fermino also noted a planned meeting with the directors of the residences from which lines of drinkers on Broadway appear to come.
Bottom line: When in doubt, call 911. The person passed out on the sidewalk may be sleeping or may be in serious trouble. Let the cops decide. You can also call the precinct directly at (212) 678-1811 or use the 311 app. The person can refuse help unless s/he is a danger to him/herself or others, hence the appearance of a revolving door for some. Goddard Riverside also works with the police to offer services to the homeless but, again, accepting services is voluntary.
-- Molly Sugarman