Scapegoating Unhoused and “Mentally Ill” People 

Screenshot of website of the NYC Office of the Mayor with photo showing Mayor Adams making an announcement with several people behind him and a headline that reads "Mayor Adams Announces Plan to Provide Care for Individuals Suffering From Untreated Severe Mental Illness Across NYC."

Former police captain Eric Adams won the 2021 New York City mayoral election, in year two of the pandemic, with a “war on crime” campaign that has often manifested as a war on unhoused and mentally disabled people. Unhoused people had been forced into parks and streets as a result of subway closures for overnight disinfection, leading to popular anxieties about increased homelessness (with actual numbers difficult to measure). As MTA ridership rebounded, fears regarding “transit crime,” including a few high-profile incidents of violence by mentally disabled people, led Adams to announce large-scale police patrols of the subway system shortly after he was sworn in on January 1, 2022. On November 29, Adams additionally announced an 11-point agenda that would allow unhoused and/or mentally disabled people to be involuntarily hospitalized, with NYPD and DOH “co-response teams” deployed in subways to remove “those appearing to have serious mental health issues.” Outcry from disability activists pointed to a lack of hospital space as well as economic and social supports and, more importantly, to the civil rights platform of the global deinstitutionalization movement since the 1960s. —Mara Mills

Watch Mayor Adams’s announcement below: