Homelessness, Empty Houses, and Eric Adams
“Every New Yorker deserves dignity, and we are demonstrating that this is possible,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in May of 2022, shortly after rolling out an initiative to remove homeless encampments throughout the five boroughs. In the following months, Adams implemented other policies—including involuntary hospitalizations for the mentally ill and/or homeless—that granted more power to police and less to the unhoused. However, as Wes Enzinna reports in the February issue, criminalization isn’t the only solution. In 2020, in Philadelphia, unhoused activists squatted in vacated properties, and eventually created a land trust that provided stable housing to dozens of people in need. This unconventional solution defied conservative-liberal thinking, which for decades has been caught in an impasse over whether to criminalize homelessness or boost public benefits. Enzinna, author of a forthcoming book about an Oakland tent city, discusses the replicability of the Philadelphia experiment—and the current state of homelessness discourse, which has increasingly (and inaccurately) focused on mental illness and addiction over economic factors.