Homeless' Organization Honored

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We often try to forget that there are millions of homeless people throughout the United States.
Estimates range from 1.5- to more than four million.

Here in New York City, one organization that makes sure the plight of homeless Americans is brought to the forefront is Picture the Homeless—the group, together with one of their biggest supporter, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, was honored May 3rd when it also released its report “Homeless People Count Vacant Properties In Manhattan.�

The occasion was the organization’s 23rd Annual Interfaith Convocation for the Homeless, held at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan—the group and Stringer was recognized by the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing.

This partnership for the homeless started about two years ago when members of this not-for-profit organization, led by people who have been or are homeless, began searching for an elected official with the gumption to launch a count of New York City’s abandoned buildings and vacant lots.

After many rebuffs, Picture the Homeless found their man in Borough President Stringer. Together they carried out the first-ever survey of Manhattan’s vacant properties.

The results were astounding. Combined, the borough’s 2,000 vacant or underutilized properties can accommodate approximately 24,000 units, which is more than enough to house the 16,000 homeless households in the shelter system and the approximately 4,000 citywide street homeless population.

As Borough President Stringer said when accepting the Builders of the Blessed City Award, “This whole issue has boggled my mind.� He noted, too, what a pleasure it had been to collaborate with Picture the Homeless: “A wonderful group of people who have struggled mightily and yet never lost their passion or their belief that the system must be made to work for everyone. I am proud to have partnered with them.�

On behalf of Picture the Homeless and its co-founder Anthony Williams, Marco Brumfield thanked the Assembly for honoring them. “Now that we have proven that these buildings and lots are available,� she said, “we need to put the pressure on city officials so that real change comes from this.�

Also honored were: the Pratt Institute for Community and Economic Development, the Supportive Housing Network of New York, and Coalition for the Homeless. The Interfaith Convocation included as well a Muslim call to prayer, readings from the Bible, a Jewish prayer of remembrance, and a Buddhist blessing.

Joseph Sullivan, Auxiliary Bishop, Brooklyn Catholic Diocese, delivered the sermon. James Addison presented moving testimony regarding his recovery from homelessness, and Jeannine Otis, the esteemed Director of Music at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, provided several musical interludes.

Following the Convocation was the annual Overnight Vigil in New York City Hall Park. Margaret Lee on bagpipes led participants in a procession to the park where many spent the night, as she put it “to experience, in a small way, the vulnerability and disorientation that too many of our brothers and sisters have no choice but to experience every night.�


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