NEW YORK – Here are some questions and answers about Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order seeking to have homeless people removed from streets and taken to shelters when it gets cold.
WHAT IS THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?
Cuomo's executive order states that, when the temperature is at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, local officials must conduct outreach to the street homeless and, if needed, conduct "the involuntarily transport of at-risk individuals who refuse to go inside and who appear to be at-risk for cold related injuries to appropriate facilities for assessment."
WHAT DO OTHER CITIES DO?
No other municipality orders the broad removal of the homeless from the streets when the temperature dips to or below freezing. Many cities, including New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore, expand their street outreach programs and shelter capacity.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL OBSTACLES FOR THE ORDER?
The main one is the state's Mental Hygiene Law. It requires police to interview and determine mental capacity before taking a homeless person into custody; if the person appears to suffer from mental illness, he could be taken to a hospital or mental institution for evaluation. The state indicated it would expand the interpretation of the law to include anyone who chooses to sleep outside in freezing temperatures but has since appeared to back off that stance.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM CUOMO IS TRYING TO SOLVE?
In New York City, there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people living on the streets. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's mortality database reveals that about 35 people die each year in New York state due to exposure to excessive natural cold. Nationally, the figure is about 700, though not all of them are homeless.