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After Subway Chokehold Death, NYC Offers More Help To The Homeless

New York officials are deploying more resources to help homeless people on the subway system after the widely publicized case of Jordan Neely, who was killed by a fellow passenger during an apparent mental-health episode Neely, who had been struggling with mental illness, died May 1 after Daniel Penny put him in a fatal chokehold on a subway train in lower Manhattan. Prosecutors charged Penny with second-degree manslaughter last week. His lawyers said he was acting to protect himself. The incident has inflamed New Yorkers’ post-pandemic debate around public safety and mental health. At the center of both issues is the city’s homelessness crisis, which Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer who patrolled the subway system, has pledged to fix but so far has struggled to alleviate, the Wall Street Journal reports. Overall homelessness has increased in New York along with residential rents. The number of people reporting anxiety and depression has also gone up, according to surveys by the city’s health department, while the number of available inpatient psychiatric beds decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people who want help or housing are unable to get it, advocates say, leaving some to find refuge in the public spaces of the subway system. Some 4,600 people have checked into shelters as part of a city-backed program where teams of police officers and outreach workers sweep trains at end-of-line subway stations. Only 1,300 of the people who checked into the shelter system because of the program actually remain there. And those placements are a small fraction of the 318,000 interactions between homeless people and outreach teams since February of 2022. Shelly Nortz of the Coalition for the Homeless advocacy group said people sometimes accept transportation to shelters but don’t bother checking in. She said it would be better if people were taken to more permanent housing rather than a shelter. Separately, Adams said he would convene nonprofit groups that the city uses for homeless outreach “to ensure accountability when there are missed opportunities to get those in crisis the help they need.” The city is testing ways to connect the homeless to more permanent housing and outreach workers are trained to be welcoming and to build trust. Outreach teams include a clinician from the city’s health department. So far, the state has launched 11 outreach teams that work in stations during days and evenings. They have reached out to 7,283 people and connected 879 people to services since April 25, 2022.

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