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February 8, 1986
Advocate: Homeless Harassed
An advocate for the homeless accused police officers of the Metro-North Commuter Railroad yesterday of harassing and threatening homeless people seeking shelter in Grand Central Terminal.

George McDonald, chairman of America's Homeless Political Action Committee said Metro-North police routinely sweep the homeless out of the terminal.

"Their policy is to get them out any way they can," said McDonald, who was charged with disorderly conduct Wednesday night after he protested that police had brutally handled the arrest of a homeless man.

Tito Davila, a spokesman for Metro-North, said the railroad discourages loitering, but he denied McDonald's charges.

"If Mr. McDonald has a serious complaint of treatment of the homeless by Metro-North then he should place a complaint with the appropriate authorities, so we can begin an investigation," Davila said.

A year ago this month, Metro-North resumed its policy of closing Grand Central at 1:30 a.m., after reports that crime had increased. The terminal had been opened during the winter to shelter the homeless.

The city's Human Resources Administration has been sending social workers to Grand Central, the Port Authority bus terminal and Pennsylvania Station every night between midnight and 2:00 a.m., offering rides to homeless people who want to go to a shelter.

Since an elderly woman known as "Mama" was found dead on a waiting room bench at the terminal on Christmas Day, HRA has launched an extended outreach program that sends workers and vans to Grand Central from 6 p.m. to midnight, Douglas said. On Christmas Eve, according to several of the homeless, Metro-North officers ignored pleas to call an ambulance for Mama.

Robert M. Hayes, a counsel to the Coalition for the Homeless, which is not associated with McDonald's group, said evidence that Metro-North has a policy of brutalizing the homeless is scarce. But, he noted, there have been scattered reports of police insensitivity.

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