Mayor Eric Adams Credit: NYC Mayor's Office/YouTube

As faith leaders, we agree that the streets and the subways are not homes. But the encampment and subway sweeps your administration is conducting are unjust, immoral, and inhumane. When you separate people from their belongings and makeshift homes on the streets, and fail to provide them with a better option, you are only shuffling people around and traumatizing them further. We unequivocally condemn these sweeps, and we call on you to provide housing to homeless New Yorkers.

If you want to help homeless New Yorkers, you have to listen to them. We’ve heard from unsheltered folks who tell us that congregate shelters are often inadequate, unsafe, and traumatic. You know as well as we do that you cannot wish away poverty, and that efforts to reduce unsheltered homelessness will fail if the only shelter options people are given are the same ones that led them to sleep on the subways or streets in the first place. Rather than simply trying to make homelessness less visible to those of us who are lucky enough to be housed, we ask you to listen to the homeless New Yorkers who tell us that what they need to get off the streets is housing.

That’s why, as faith leaders, we urge you to stop the sweeps and focus on opening safe, private, and dignified accommodations for every New Yorker living on the streets and subways—including single-room Safe Havens, stabilization beds, and most importantly permanent housing.

The data shows that people will come inside if given a placement offer that meets their needs.

Unlike congregate shelters, where people often sleep 30 to a room, single-room Safe Haven and stabilization beds offer a sense of privacy that appeals to and helps many homeless New Yorkers. We saw the success of this approach with the temporary hotel shelters earlier in the pandemic, which offered similarly private accommodations. According to Project Renewal, which surveyed homeless individuals last year who were placed in hotels as part of the city’s COVID de-densification program, over 75% of temporary hotel shelter residents said their physical and mental health had improved, and 72% said their drug and alcohol use declined. Accidental drug overdose rates among homeless New Yorkers also declined after hotelling began.

It’s not just that private and dignified accommodations have better results—the numbers prove that homeless New Yorkers prefer them, too: only 10% of those who accepted referrals to congregate shelters during summer 2020 stayed there, compared to 35% who had stabilization beds. Another set of data from 2020 found that 75% of those offered stabilization beds stayed there, while data gathered by DHS between May 5, 2020 and April 4, 2021 found that while 30% of individuals offered transport to congregate shelters accepted placement there, 65% accepted placement at a stabilization bed, and 84% of those who accepted placement at a Safe Haven stayed there. All of the data we have makes clear that providing options that offer privacy is a successful way to encourage homeless New Yorkers to come inside. Meanwhile, just five individuals in 239 encampments have accepted placement.

Everybody deserves privacy, safety, and dignity. We urge you to recognize the worth of our unhoused neighbors, and help them to get back on their feet, not keep them on their knees. Please stop the sweeps, and start prioritizing getting folks housed.

Sincerely,

Annmarie Aquino, parishioner, Church of the Good Shepherd

Rev. Emily Arnold, hospital chaplain

Rev. Laura Bachmann, pastor, Gates Presbyterian Church

Rev. John Backe, Metropolitan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Dennice Barr, president, Fruit Belt Advisory Council 

Chaplain Carter Baxter, Mount Sinai Health System

John Benfatti, director, Riverdale Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture

Brenda Berkman, chair, NYC Presbytery Justice Ministries Committee

Ivan Braun, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy

Rev. Peter Cook, executive director, New York State Council of Churches

Rev. Mickey Correa, pastor, Christ Church Washington Heights

Kiana Davis, social action/social justice manager, B’nai Jeshurun

Sister Carol DeAngelo, director of Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation, Sisters of Charity of New York

Simona DeFeo, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness

Anne Marie Del Campo, JPIC Good Shepherd Church

Kay Dundorf, board member, Riverdale Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture

Deirdre Fisher-Kemp, minister, New Light Baptist Church

Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison, executive presbyter, Presbytery of New York City

Rev. Dr. Mary Foulke, rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem

Minister Carl Garrison, minister of Homeless Outreach, Manhattan Church of Christ

Mr. Jerrold Goodman, board member, Riverdale Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, SAJ-Judaism That Stands for All

Rabbi Lisa Grant, Hebrew Union College

Marc Greenberg, executive director, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing

Peter Gudaitis, board of directors, Emergency Shelter Network

Rev. Martin Hauser, pastor, Grace & St. Paul’s Church

Rev. Melissa Hinnen, pastor, Park Slope United Methodist Church

Rev. David Jolly, pastor, Trinity United Methodist

Rev. K. Karpen, senior minister, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew

Sister Lamiya Khandaker, project manager, Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York

Rev. Charles King, CEO, Housing Works, Inc.

Sister Honora Kinney, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Reverend, Deacon, Chaplain Gloria Lavine, The Reformed Church of Princess Bay/Community Advocate

Rev. Dorlimar Lebron, lead pastor/associate director, First Spanish Methodist Church/The Peoples Church

Jone Lewis, leader, Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture

The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis, senior minister, Middle Collegiate Church

Rev.  Lea Matthews, associate pastor, St. Paul & St. Andrew

Marianne Montero

Director John Mudd, executive director, Midtown South Community Council

Roshi Daiken Nelson, founder & guiding teacher, Pamsula Zen Center

Pastor Heidi Neumark, Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan/Iglesia Luterana Trinidad

Minister Chibueze Okorie, minister of Evangelism, Church of Gethsemane

Rabbi Shuli Passow, director of community engagement, B’nai Jeshurun

Rev. Nigel Pearce, pastor, Grace Congregational Church of Harlem

Rev. Dr. Victoria Jeanne Rollins, founder, director, co-chair, Rise Again Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of New York HFI

Rev. David Rommereim, Lutheran pastor, Northridge Lutheran (ELCA)

Dr. Nori Rost, clergy leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture

Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Rev. Charles Ryu, lead pastor, Morningside United Methodist Church

Rev. Matthew Schaeffer, pastor, Bay Ridge United Methodist Church

Rev. Francis Skelly, parish priest, Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Frances Stiles, member, service and advocacy team, Mountain Rise of United Church of Christ

Rev. Martha Stone, chair, Commission on Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations, UCC NY Conference

Anne Stribling, Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. Timothy Weisman, pastor, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Rev. Jeff Wells, lead pastor, The Church of the Village

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