The sweeps continue.
Mayor Eric Adams’ mandated removal of homeless encampments continued Monday as Chinatown’s unhoused scrambled to salvage their belongings before it was tossed into the trash pile.
Undomiciled residents of 38 Eldridge Street were left in despair on April 11 while they desperately attempted to choose what to carry with them and what to leave behind. One female member of the encampment rested her head on a metal bar in a solemn act of defeat. For many, life on the streets has now become a revolving door of removals and displacements.
“Sanitation put up letters talking about how they are coming. This is not the first time,” Neil, a homeless member of the encampment told amNewYork Metro. “They keep telling me they are going to help me.”
According to Neil, the last time he faced one of these sweeps he lost many of his belongings.
“They threw out everything I had. I am talking about brand new sneakers, socks, pants, jeans, shirts, jackets, hats, gloves–everything,” Neil said.
As he tossed clothing into a ripped plastic bag, the Department of Homeless Services arrived with an escort of police officers, however, Neil refused to speak with members of the homeless outreach stating that he will not return to a shelter.
Neil, a #homeless individual, works to salvage his clothing before it is discarded during an encampment sweep today in #Chinatown. pic.twitter.com/OzjXgCO9SC
— Dean_Moses (@Dean_Moses) April 11, 2022
“I was in a single shelter, and I had people coming in and out of my room. I went downstairs and asked them to lock my room and they said they can’t lock my room. I couldn’t lay down, I couldn’t do it anymore,” Neil said.
Despite the hardships, those who live on the streets are not alone. Several allies have emerged who attend the sweeps to watch over their neighbors to document their safety and to ensure no important belongings are thrown out during the removal.
“It’s really, really hard to watch people that you’ve built relationships with to suddenly not be there,” Judith Haider said, a local supporter who helps her unhoused neighbors collect their belongings.
A ripple effect of defiance by those in a Tompkins Square Park encampment who refused to leave their tents, ultimately getting arrested, inspired several members of the homeless community to say they will defy the sweeps. Talia Jane, an independent reporter who was also at the sweep in Chinatown, said that a homeless individual pointed to the cover of a recent amNewYork Metro newspaper and stated he wanted to fight like those in the East Village.
I’m currently at 38 Eldridge St. where residents are bracing for a sweep. One resident, while talking to his friend, says he wants to stay & fight instead of losing all his stuff. His friend is carrying a copy of @amNewYork, points to the cover, & says “That’s what this guy did.” pic.twitter.com/gXNdOXgjso
— talia jane (@taliaotg) April 11, 2022
While Neil took what he could, the Department of Sanitation began tossing objects into the rear of a garbage truck under the watchful eyes of the NYPD. According to advocates, this leaves the homeless to stay constantly on the move–never able to stay in one place for fear of having their belongings confiscated or destroyed.
“I caught up to one of my neighbors who I hadn’t seen in three weeks. I was really worried about him, and he said he’s moving daily. Like, he is literally moving every day,” Haider said.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.