News around COVID-19 is seldom good and often it’s worse than we can even imagine. Such is the recent news of a group of homeless who took shelter in a bus during the subway shutdown from 1am – 5am for cleaning. Earlier in the week, the MTA launched the new cleaning program as a way to help combat the coronavirus epidemic.
During a recent cold snap, the MTA parked buses outside some subway stations to provide shelter from the cold and wet weather. A limited number of the buses were posted Saturday morning outside several end-of-line stations, including at the Stillwell Avenue station in Coney Island.
It turns out that there was only one bus, which was completely dark and unheated. According to reports, “windows quickly fogged up with the breath of 16 homeless men and women.” Watching the bus and the people were a small group from the Triborough Bridge-Tunnel Authority Police and city-contracted outreach teams from the nonprofit Bowery Residents Committee.
“The city needs to take care of this,” one transit worker commented. “We have buses,” he shrugged of the spare accommodations. “We’re a transportation company — this is what we got.”
The day before, when the subway was closed, it was reported that at 1am when the cleaning began that there were no outreach workers outside the Herald Square subway station.
“Given the forecast of unseasonably cold weather this weekend, the MTA during the early morning hours of Saturday and Sunday will be providing a limited number of buses at end-of-line stations,” interim transit president Sarah Feinberg and Transit Workers Union Local 100 president Tony Utano explained in a joint statement.
“We are providing these buses only during this cold snap and expect the city to continue to step up and take responsibility for providing safe shelter for those individuals experiencing homelessness. As we have stated many times, we are transportation providers, not a social services agency.”
The MTA issued a statement that they “have no plans to deploy any additional buses tonight or into the future. Ensuring access to shelter and social services for homeless New Yorkers continues to be a city responsibility.”
According to several news outlets, advocates for the homeless have complained that there is a lack of affordable housing for homeless people; and that the shelters are overcrowded and unsafe (making many homeless people reluctant to go to them). The City has promised to take all necessary action to remedy this problem, which has grown to uncontrollable proportions due to the COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully with the warmer weather coming, the virus will go away and NYC can get back to work. As always, we will keep you posted!