It was already one of the most serious problems confronting New York before the pandemic, and the coronavirus only made it worse: homelessness.
“Rather than have a shelter plan, we need to have a permanent home plan,” Kathryn Garcia, a candidate for mayor, said last week.
“The next mayor has got to invite the homeless community into city hall,” said Scott Stringer, the city comptroller who is also running.
His rival, Dianne Morales, fired back: “Unlike Scott, I have actually been talking to people that are homeless for the last 15 years."
Perhaps, unlike races past, homelessness will be a central issue in the Democratic primary campaign this year. Already a forum was dedicated exclusively to the issue, moderated by a resident of an Upper West Side shelter.
“Today you’re not talking over us. You’re not talking to us. You are talking with us,” said Shams DaBaron, a resident of the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side.
Some of these candidates committed to ending the city’s shelter system as we know it — like getting rid of the traditional, large, dorm-like shelters the city typically uses.
“My commitment is by the end of my first term is it would be done,” said Shaun Donovan.
Others, like Morales, Stringer, Donovan and Maya Wiley, said they would permanently get rid of any NYPD involvement in outreach to those living on the street. Others, like Carlos Menchaca and Ray McGuire, committed to increasing the cost of the city’s rental vouchers for people experiencing homelessness.
The expanse between the candidates was not particularly large — many of them made big promises to keep New Yorkers out of homeless shelters altogether.
“I want to take the vacant properties that the city owns, I want to give them, not to REBNY developers, but back to community-based organizations with a subsidy that would be directed to reward low income housing,” said Stringer.
“We should be taking the 100 hotels that have been shuttered and turn them into affordable and permanently affordable housing for our folks who need it,” Wiley said.
Details were slim on some of these plans. Several campaigns told NY1 they would have detailed policy proposals directly addressing homelessness coming out soon.