NYPD Hopes To Keep Homeless Off Subways With ‘Diversion Program’

Rich Lamb
January 21, 2020 - 3:36 pm

Photo by Anthony Behar / Sipa USA

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The city is testing a new program to help homeless individuals out of the subway system and away from the courts.

The Subway Diversion Program will allow a homeless New Yorker caught violating MTA rules to avoid paying fines or having a summons issued if they agree to meet with an outreach team.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the program as the “right balance” of enforcement and outreach, homeless advocates slammed the program on Tuesday as harmful.

“It increases unwelcome contact with NYPD, while adding counterproductive element of coercion to the practice of outreach – which undermines trust and relationships,” said Giselle Routhier, of the Coalition for the Homeless.

NYPD Transit Chief Edward Delatorre, at a hearing at City Hall, defended officers’ efforts and said the program was beneficial for them and homeless individuals.

“The Subway Diversion Program was designed to offer help to people without a verifiable address by diverting them away from the criminal justice system and to our critical services,” he said.

Delatorre added instead of finding themselves in the criminal justice system, they find themselves receiving services that will hopefully get them back on their feet.

There are just over 3,500 estimated homeless New Yorkers, according to the Department of Homeless Services.

If a homeless person chooses to participate in the program, they’ll be taken to an office where the Bowery Residents' Committee will conduct an assessment on housing, mental health and substance use.