Dozens of New York religious leaders on Good Friday condemned Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign to dismantle homeless encampments, calling the policy “immoral and inhumane.”
In a letter sent to the mayor on Friday, the 56 leaders representing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and humanists urged the mayor to end homeless sweeps and instead focus on providing alternatives appropriate for life on the street and in the subway.
“When you separate people from their belongings and makeshift homes on the streets and don’t give them a better option, you only displace people and further traumatize them,” according to the letter signed by the faith leaders.
An Adams spokesman, Charles Lutvak, said the mayor was not going to “allow the normalization of people living on our streets.”
Previously, the mayor said outreach workers who engage with people living on the streets provide a range of housing options. Adams also said 350 low-barrier beds were opened in March, but advocates said those beds were planned about two years ago during the Bill de Blasio administration.
Advocates say thousands of people are choosing to live on the streets because the city’s large mass shelters are unsafe. Advocates said safe havens offer more services, fewer curfews and rules.
The 56 leaders represent more than 300 religious organizations, mostly in the five boroughs with a few outside the city. A group has a few dozen members and the largest has over 10,000 members.
Leaders have asked Adams to open safe, private and dignified temporary housing, including so-called refuges, a type of shelter that has on-site medical services or connections to other services such as management cases and placement services. The solution to homelessness, they say, is permanent housing.
“Rather than simply trying to make homelessness less visible to those of us who are fortunate enough to be housed, we’ve asked you to listen to homeless New Yorkers who tell us that what they need to get off the streets, it’s housing,” according to the letter signed by the group.
This Sunday, Reverend Jacqui Lewis, senior minister in charge of Middle Church in the East Village, said her congregants, like Christians around the world, will remember the resurrection of Christ.
“You are the resurrection. That’s what I preach,” Reverend Lewis told Gothamist. “When you come out of your selfishness and care for others, you are the resurrection. When you care for the poor, you are the resurrection.
An earlier draft incorrectly listed the name Middle Church.