You Told Us is a regular feature highlighting comments from users in the communities DNAinfo covers.
UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents had a lot to say about our report on the increase in 311 calls regarding homeless people, encampments and panhandling in the neighborhood — with some offering a historical perspective and solutions, while others blamed city agencies, the NYPD, and Mayors de Blasio and Bloomberg.
Readers wrote in with a range of reactions, with one Neighborhood Square commenter having "mixed feelings: empathy, annoyance, disgust."
Drawing on their own observations of the neighborhood, readers connected the rise in 311 calls with a general increase in homelessness:
► "The Mayor is wrong that the number of calls is due to media hype. The sad fact is simple - there are more homeless on the streets and in the subways. Landlords are getting greedier forcing people onto the streets," wrote one Neighborhood Square user.
► "I have lived on the Upper West Side for nearly 19 years. This is the worst I have ever seen. The Mayor is dead wrong about this. There is no hype," added another commenter.
Others agreed that affordable housing has to be increased and more help provided for people trying to stay in their homes:
► "RESIDENTIAL RENTS HAVE SKYROCKETED; THERE IS NO LOW TO MODERATE HOUSING BEING BUILT; CITY SHELTERS ARE DICKENSIAN NIGHTMARES; THEY ARE TRUE HELLHOLES; HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED FOR BEING POOR," a Neighborhood Square noted, emphatically.
► "Many social services have been cut in the city. Many of these individuals need treatment for mental illness and/or addiction. The system is broken - they need real help and there is no where for them to turn," added one Facebook commenter.
► "I also think there's an important distinction between the romanticized 'gypsy traveler' lifestyle choice and the homelessness epidemic (people with untreated mental illnesses, veterans in need of healthcare they can't afford, individuals with substance abuse problems, etc.)" wrote another on Neighborhood Square.
Many residents said the increase reminded them of the way local streets looked decades prior:
► "Sad our city is returning to the 70's," wrote a Facebook commenter.
► "I live on the UWS and it's abundantly clear that this part of town is like going back to the late 1970s/80s. On every block there are people sleeping in doorways at night, beggars during the day and vagrants just wandering at all hours. It's not safe," added a Neighborhood Square user.
Others felt hopeless about the chronically homeless population:
► "We've seen a big uptick in the # of homeless people and panhandlers around 88th & Broadway. They sleep in the vestibules of the stores and on the steps of the synagogue. The problem is that the homeless outreach teams can't force them to go into shelters; and if they do go for a night, they quickly return to the streets," wrote another Neighborhood Square user.