By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
The heart wrenching rise in homeless people living on the streets of the Big Apple continues, amid the coronavirus and ensuing unemployment. In recent weeks, the sidewalk on Second Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets has become a make-shift encampment for a community of homeless people. With access to a city phone-charging kiosk, the East Village encampment has included multiple bundles, blankets and boxes, complete with a tarp, a desk, a large headboard, and a mattress. City sanitation workers had come and taken apart the encampment, and hauled it away on Saturday.
On Sunday July 26, not 24-hours after city workers took down the makeshift camp site, it was back. The homeless community had speedily rebuilt their station. “We had a blissful 12 hours of peace,” said local resident Vanessa Valdes, in an email to The Post on Sunday. “They are back and rebuilding structures again. I saw five people, including the sex worker interviewed in (a Post) article. What can be done?” As reported by the NY Post , Valdes showed pictures of the street block which showed a tarp, cot and lop- sided shelving unit with two people sleeping underneath. The encampment is tucked under scaffolding, which was put up in 2015 when an apartment building was devastated by a gas explosion.
The crude shelter has received plenty of negative attention and complaints from neighbors. Mayor Bill de Blasio had pledged to crackdown on similar encampments in Manhattan. “Anyone who tells us about an encampment, we’re going to have it addressed right away by Homeless Services, Sanitation, PD,” de Blasio said, referring to the camps on West 55th Street and 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen; at West 10th Street and Seventh Avenue South in the West Village; and at West 24th Street and Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. “Whatever it takes.” This is what led to the sanitation workers that came to clear out the above described installation on Saturday.
Locals were disappointed to see, however, that the homeless occupants did not go far. They crossed the street, and waited under the shade of the Orpheum Theater, and came right back when the city workers left. “They clear it out two times. They come back right away,” said Mike Tarabih, 45, a cook at the neighboring B&H Restaurant. “It’s too much. The blankets, the beds the furniture. They make apartments on the sidewalk. Customers say, ‘No, I go somewhere else.’”
On Sunday, the city Department Homeless Services made a statement. “Anytime we encounter or learn about a condition on the street that needs to be addressed, we do so as quickly as we can, discussing directly with any unsheltered individuals who may be there at the time the options and resources available to them, and coordinating with partner agencies as needed,” said DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn in an email. “Engaging those in need isn’t easy or quick work, nor is accepting services for those who’ve lived unsheltered for some time,” McGinn added. “It requires persistence, compassion, and trust, and we will keep coming back.”