Those who have experienced homelessness and their supporters marched through the streets of Lower Manhattan Wednesday to demand an end to Mayor Eric Adams’ encampment sweeps and pushed for fast-track to housing.
A collective of homeless rights advocates looked to close July Homeless Rights Month by leading a march from City Hall with a message aimed directly at the mayor himself.
“We’re here to send a message to our mayor and the administration and to the city of New York, that there are too many homeless people living in New York City today,” Valerie Reyes-Jimenez of Housing Works said. “He needs to just stop the sweets, stop criminalizing homelessness. We need to get the cops out of outreach.”
Led by Housing Works, a nonprofit working to end HIV and homelessness, the organization was also joined by fellow advocacy groups Vocal-NY and Help NYC in addition to those who have experienced sleeping rough firsthand. According to those have actually lived on the streets and stayed in homeless shelters, they believe funding should stop being placed toward outreach workers and organizations and instead be put into accessible housing.
“The shelters are not working. They’re not working,” Denise Brown said. “We can make sure that there’s affordable housing for working class people, for everyone who needs housing in America. We can do this.”
In response, the mayor’s office states that they agree with the notion of expanding housing for people experiencing homelessness and cite their investment of $171 million into 1,400 new safe haven and stabilization beds earlier this year.
“I have said since we started this initiative that every New Yorker deserves dignity, and we are demonstrating that this is possible,” Adams said in a statement. “Our teams are working professionally and diligently every day to make sure that every New Yorker living on the street knows they have a better option while ensuring that everyone who lives in or visits our city can enjoy the clean public spaces we all deserve. During the first week of our subway initiative, only 22 people accepted our offers of shelter. In five months, that number has grown to approximately 2,000 New Yorkers who have accepted services — coming inside and getting connected with resources to build a more stable life. I refuse to continue the decades-long tradition of the city ignoring and turning our backs on our neighbors most in need, and I’m proud that our efforts to bring people inside are working.”
As the group concluded their march, they stated that more shelters beds are not the answer; they are seeking single-room occupancy apartments.