Rally in Garment District urges city to protect homeless individuals in shelters

Marni Halasa and shelter residents rally to prevent eviction.
Photo by Dean Moses

A City Council candidate rallied with homeless individuals in the Garment District seeking to call further attention to the rise in homelessness and defend those living in shelters from eviction.

Across the street from Hotel Central, located at 341 West 36th St., Marni Halasa brandished cardboard signs reading “Homelessness is not a crime,” “We all need a home,” and “Social safety net, not gentrification” on Dec. 8. Soon the City Council hopeful was joined by homeless individuals currently residing in the makeshift shelter. Together they protested the efforts being made to remove those currently calling unused hotels home. 

A shelter resident holds a sign condemning gentrification. (Photo by Dean Moses)

“They all know each other and take care of each other, so to displace them and throw them to another shelter in Wall Street continues a cycle of abuse. What Gale Brewer and Corey Johnson really should do is that they need to find them permanent homes. The easiest way is to take an abandoned hotel and repurpose it for single room occupancies,” Halasa told amNewYork Metro.

Protesters stood on the roadway between parked cars, where they flourished signs at passing vehicles in an attempt to raise awareness for their cause.

Michael Shade Witherspoon, a shelter resident shared a block of bread with a fellow Hotel Central occupant, stating: “This is what they give us for working and helping to clean. But we appreciate whatever we get.”

Throughout the rally, Witherspoon reiterated that he is still just like everybody else, he just no longer has a home.

“I just lost my apartment, I didn’t lose my mind. All we are looking for is a little bit of love, how much does that cost? You have to be there in that man’s place to see what he goes through, what she goes through. This is where the shelter comes in — help!” Witherspoon said. 

Witherspoon hands some bread to a fellow shelter resident. (Photo by Dean Moses)

The Garment District and nearby Hell’s Kitchen areas have seen numerous rallies in recent months, with residents claiming they now feel unsafe in their neighborhood, citing an increase in crime and blatant drug use, which they attributed to their homeless neighbors.

Even stores, such as the Dunkin Donuts at 316 West 34th street have taken to locking their refrigerator to prevent individuals from stealing bottles of soda, water, and juice.   

Halasa — who is vying for the District 3 City Council seat in June 2021 held by term-limited City Council Speaker Corey Johnson — implored the political leaders not to displace homeless individuals in shelters, but instead create permanent homes with in-house supportive services to aid with mental health issues.   

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