City outreach workers previously tried but failed to convince the two homeless men who died in the subway system over the weekend to accept shelter, officials claimed Monday.
The two men, 56-year-old Dwayne Hill and 61-year-old Robert Mangual, “were people we’ve been trying to bring in from the streets,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks said during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s morning press briefing.
“It’s a difficult process,” Banks added. “It can take dozens, if not more, encounters to bring someone in.”
Both bodies have been tested for the coronavirus, and one has already tested negative so far, Banks said.
A city source said the negative COVID-19 test belonged to Mangual. Hill likely died from a drug overdose, the source said.
Subway workers were freaked out by the deaths — which came within 12 hours of each other — amid the coronavirus pandemic that has also felled almost 100 MTA employees.
But Banks and de Blasio insisted the virus was not widespread among the city’s homeless population.
Some 823 homeless people have tested positive for the virus so far, 699 of them from shelters, according to city stats.
But, he acknowledged, of the persistent presence of vagrants living on the subways: “It’s not fair to straphangers. It never has been.”
Starting Wednesday, the MTA will begin stopping all subway service overnight between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. so trains can be cleared out and disinfected.
Banks called it an “opportunity to engage people.”
“I think the ability to connect to more people during the shutdown period will give more pathways off the streets,” Bank added.
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