Untangling the rat king of subway homelessness
Feb 26, 2014 | 1518 views | 0 0 comments | 140 140 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We’ve all been there: A train pulls up to the crowded platform and for a moment, when the closest door comes to a halt in front of us and we see a half-empty car, our hearts beat faster as we realize we may just get to sit down on this trip.

But then the door opens, and out wafts a stench so potent as to be almost tangible and the reason the car is half-empty becomes assaultingly apparent.

Every day, almost 2,000 homeless individuals take shelter in New York City’s subway system, and according to Deputy Inspector Michael A. Telfer of the NYPD’s Transit District 20, Queens trains are the most popular hubs of subway homeless culture.

That is why Telfer, along with Christine Hofmann of the MTA and several other NYPD officers addressed a room full of active and concerned Forest Hills residents last Wednesday evening at the 112th Precinct. The problem of homelessness on the subway doesn’t escape the purview of MTA, whether that is apparent or not.

At a certain point, whether or not we should feel a sense of societal responsibility for the problem of homelessness becomes irrelevant to the function of maintaining our place in the communities we’ve built for ourselves: we have chosen to commit to a job or career, we have committed ourselves to getting an education, we desire for ourselves a robust set of recreational activities, and we rely on public transportation to get us to all of these things.

So what can be done about the riders who don’t/won’t go home; should they be allowed to stay indefinitely? Because according to the MTA, they technically don’t have to leave. Ever. Unless, that is, they are causing a disruption to other riders in the system. But isn’t the issue of homelessness itself a disruption?

It isn’t that the MTA has no plan to deal with the homeless issue, but while a $6 million infusion into the Bowery Residents’ Committee and the promise to check all subway stations for the presence of homeless campers at least once every two weeks beginning this summer is somewhat comforting, it stinks of half-measure.

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