By Carol Tannenhauser
On Thursday night, a group of New Yorkers running for mayor sat down virtually with a group of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. The candidates were there to answer questions posed by people directly impacted by homelessness, about how the city’s homeless policies and programs are currently working — or not — and how they could be improved or supplanted.
The discussion was wide-ranging. There was talk of eliminating the homeless shelter system completely in favor of a “Housing First” model, which all the candidates seemed to endorse. “How much time should someone spend in a shelter?” a questioner asked. “Zero,” one candidate answered. “Everyone is housing-ready.” Another said, “As close to zero as possible, unless they need other services.”
Ten candidates attended: Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, Dianne Morales, Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Ray McGuire, Carlos Menchaca, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, and Joycelyn Taylor. Andrew Yang was expected, but was not able to attend, because he tested positive for the coronavirus.
The candidates appeared on a Zoom screen a few at a time, along with the moderators and co-organizers of the forum: Da Homeless Hero (DHH), a.k.a Shams DaBaron, and Corinne Low. Low is an assistant professor at the Wharton School and cofounder of the UWS Open Hearts Initiative, a local support and advocacy group for the homeless. The other questioners were on video.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before,” said DHH, who is currently being sheltered at The Lucerne Hotel. “Usually we’re voiceless and choice-less. Today we have a seat at the table.”
To watch the Mayoral Democratic Candidates’ Forum on Homelessness, click here or view the video below. It is two hours and 19 minutes long, and offers a revealing introduction to some of those running for mayor — and their views on one of the neighborhood’s most difficult and divisive issues.
The primary is on June 22nd, five months away.