NYC Homeless Advocates Rally At City Hall Against de Blasio

direct action outside City Hall on Broadway which started at 10 AM to call out Mayor de Blasio’s Broken Record on Homelessness.
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Photo: Coalition For The Homeless

Thursday, July 29, 2021 -- NY, NY -- Housing Works, along with Upper West Side Open Hearts, Fortune Society, NY Doctors Coalition, ACT UP NY, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness, Midtown South Community Council, and others, are staging a direct action outside City Hall on Broadway which started at 10 AM to call out Mayor de Blasio’s Broken Record on Homelessness.

The group will demand the Mayor and city agencies act immediately to halt inhumane and poorly executed transfers of single New Yorkers experiencing homelessness from COVID-safe hotels into the unsafe congregate shelter system; stop street “sweeps” of people into the shelter system; and for the Mayor to take immediate action on Intro 146, a bill which require the City to pay higher rates in its rental assistance voucher program for homeless New Yorkers, which are currently so low as to be useless for the majority of people who qualify.

The action will include a rally and speakout of elected officials, people directly impacted by homelessness and the city shelter system, and other community leaders. The current speaker lineup includes Councilmember Stephen Levin; Councilmember Mark Levine; Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan; NYS Assemblymember Harvey Epstein; Delsenia Glover of the Public Advocate’s Office; Charles King, CEO of Housing Works; Jaron Benjamin, VP of Advocacy, Housing Works; 30 Days of Homeless Rights campaign co-creator and activist Shams DeBaron; and VOCAL-NY Leader Milton Perez.

The action will feature large signage of de Blasio as an irrelevant, out of date record album cover reading “de Blasio’s Greatest Hits,” with references to his recent declaration that New York’s future is bright, along with banners, signs and more. Some participants plan to engage in an act of civil disobedience.

“I have been in a family shelter and in a single resident shelter, and single resident shelters are totally different,” said Rosalind Casillas, Case Manager for the Star 6 Program, Housing Works. “My partner was just transferred from a hotel to a single shelter. There is no help, no case managers, and no services. People are treated like they are incarcerated and the staff does not care. We need better options for people who qualify for programs and people who don’t, and we need a voucher system that works for the people who need it.”

“As far as we know, less than 20% of homeless New Yorkers to date have been vaccinated for COVID-19,” said Charles King, CEO and Co-founder, Housing Works. “The Delta variant is causing a new surge of infections that will spread quickly in congregate shelters where as many as 50 people sleep in the same room. Many of our community members have been in single resident shelters and we know from their experiences that conditions are always unsafe, inhumane and grim. It is outrageous that the Mayor not only overlooks the reality that services can be delivered to those who need them in much safer and more welcoming settings, but he insists on enacting this plan to transfer people into shelters now, unnecessarily putting their lives at heightened risk.”

“Our trajectory shows a worsening homeless and housing crisis, which spells disaster not only for the unhoused, but for the moderate- to low-income, the formerly incarcerated, and the aging population,” said John Mudd, President, Midtown South Community Council. “It foretells a bleak future. The economic damage caused by the pandemic presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create affordable housing for homeless New Yorkers out of the city’s now-vacant hotels. Any good you have done will be marred by this period in time. Transfers of homeless residents from hotels must result in housing, not placement in shelters.”

Mayor de Blasio first ran for his position in 2013 on a platform of healing the “Tale of Two Cities,” and has given lip service to addressing systemic inequity, but his broken record speaks for itself. “We’re going to respond to the crisis borough by borough, neighborhood by neighborhood, family by family, person by person,” he said in his 2017 plan, and today we see that plan has resulted in a proliferation of smaller shelters, the use of “street sweeps” to keep homeless New Yorkers away from tourists and wealthy neighborhoods, and a complete disregard for the safety of people experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.

This action is part of the 30 Days of Homeless Rights campaign, created by directly impacted activists Maria Walles and Shams “Da Homeless Hero” DaBaron, and enacted by a coalition of homeless rights organizations and directly impacted advocates over the month of July. The campaign was created in response to the city’s poorly conceived and unsafe plan to evict 8,000 homeless residents from the hotels where they have sheltered in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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