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Candidate Says City Homelessness Should Be Major Issue In Mayor's Race

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Some activists say homelessness has skyrocketed in New York City lately, with more than 50-thousand people living in homeless shelters throughout the five boroughs, and one homeless advocate, who is running for mayor, believes the issue should be a major factor this election season. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

George Williams, 45, is getting his life back on track.

After living on the streets for years, he became a trainee with The Doe Fund's flagship program "Ready, Willing and Able".

At the Harlem Center for Opportunity. There, he found food, shelter, and career training. He did so well, he got 'rock star' treatment at his graduation from the program.

"To live in limbo and not know where your next meal is coming from or how you may not be able to stay out of the rain for the night is devastating," Williams says. "And by the grace of God, I found the Doe Fund."

For every success story like George Williams, however, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of New Yorkers who slip through the cracks. Homeless shelters in the city are overwhelmed, and people are staying longer.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 50,135 people live in municipal shelters as of January 2013. Among them, 21,034 are children.

As the founder of the "Ready, Willing and Able" program, George McDonald has spent more than 25 years trying to get a handle on the homelessness problem. The program has helped tens of thousands of people transition from the streets to the workforce.

McDonald says City Hall could learn a lot from him, which is a big reason why he is running for mayor as a Republican.

"We need more affordable housing in New York City, and we need to provide opportunities for people to work," McDonald says.

Few people think George McDonald will actually move into Gracie Mansion. While homelessness may not be on many voters' radar, the Coalition says the problem is the worst it's been since the Great Depression.

Nazerine Griffin runs the Harlem Center and was a client years ago.

"Younger men are coming to our program like never before because they need the same assistance as some of our older men," Griffin says.

The program's 400 graduates have a reason to celebrate. They all have their own apartment and a job, and they are drug free.

But the 400 empty beds they left behind at the center are already filled, with many others waiting on the streets for an opening. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP