Again I am calling attention to the housing crisis in the city. Mayor Adams has begun the dismantling of homeless encampments around the city. When asked about this injustice, he responded “It is inhumane to have people live in cardboard boxes on highways and subway tunnels on tracks on streets. That’s inhumane.” I also believe it is inhumane, and that is why the only acceptable option is to immediately house the homeless. Destroying encampments, without a plan to provide housing, only ensure that houseless people move around the city streets. At the time of writing, it is 26 degrees fahrenheit outside. Destroying encampments, in freezing temperatures, without a solid plan on where people can go is a brutal human rights abuse. As of January 2020, New York had an estimated 91,271 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Last week, I signed on to the People’s Plan NYC response to Mayor Adam’s austerity budget, which includes a call for the Mayor to fund more permanent solutions to housing, rather than the ineffectual policing of the homeless population. Their response also includes some similar points to my housing plan. Since the beginning of my campaign I have said, We must immediately house the homeless. I am also calling for the City Charter provision, Right to Shelter, to be amended to a Homes Guarantee. NYC spends billions of dollars on shelters without actually reducing homelessness. The “Right to Shelter” is unfortunately a failure. It is nothing but a band-aid that merely lessens the visibility of homelessness, with little attention paid to permanent solutions for our homeless population. The reality is that the shelter system is successful only in encouraging people in, with no effective plan to get people out. Now with homelessness on the rise, and imminent mass evictions, it is time to pivot towards a true “Right to Housing/Housing First” approach.
The perspective on homeless people needs to change. They have been labeled as violent drug using criminals. Homeless people are veterans. Homeless people are families who could no longer afford rent during the pandemic. Homeless people are patients who had a medical emergency without insurance. Homeless people are victims of gentrification. Homeless people are what any of the working people in this city could be without a simple helping hand, without the offering of a permanent housing solution.
Mayor Adams doesn’t have a solution to the crisis New Yorkers are facing. His plans have amounted to criminalizing poverty and increasing police presence on all fronts. Throwing away mattresses is throwing salt on the wound. I believe housing is a human right. Please join our Housing Task Force, held at my office every other Monday, where you can assist with mobilization.