Mayoral Candidates Grilled By People Who are Normally ‘Voiceless’ In Remarkable Forum

Top: Corinne Low, Da Homeless Hero. Eric Adams. Second: Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Shaun Donovan. Bottom: Ray McGuire.

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.”

Top, Corinne Low, Da Homeless Hero, Loree Sutton, Bottom, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley.

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.

NEWS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. Carlos says:

      Thank you for the update. Could someone (either from WSR or otherwise) provide a summary of what each candidate said? Preferably a completely unbiased summary – just the facts as an impartial observer would have heard them. Thank you.

    2. Frank Grimes says:

      As someone mentioned in a prior post, sadly this was nothing more than a dog an pony show. Of course these candidates will say “all the right things” ….The bottom line, is none of these candidates have a clue, and when you hear things like “abolish the shelter system”, you really have to wonder. It’s not as simple as giving everyone whose homeless an aparment. The majority of these people need services, which is a main reason they are homeless. Others likely don’t want to get out of the system, and rewarding them with free housing does nothing to motivate them (if anything it does the complete opposite).

      I appreciate the efforts being put twords addressing the problem, but w/o concrete plans mentioned, this is simply an opportunity for these candidates to get their faces in front of the liberal crowd and say what they want to hear. Remember our current mayor ran on the idea of leveling the wealth in NYC, seven years later the disparity has never been greater. These promises rarely lead to any actual results…

      • Ian Alterman says:

        Your cynicism notwithstanding – and perhaps even excusable to some degree – this was a substantive discussion of the issues. Sure, there is always “posturing” going on; that is the nature of politics. But many of the answers were quite thoughtful and well-researched, and most of the candidates clearly DID know what they were talking about, and had spent time looking into the issues.

      • Adam Marx says:

        No municipality or even state can do anything about wealth disparities (maybe nibble around the edges). If a governmental solution is to be found anywhere, it would be at the national level.

    3. Bob Lamm says:

      It was terrific. Thanks so much for this article and for posting the video so others can see it.

    4. Joe jowaski says:

      No yang, no thanks

    5. tnic says:

      Terrific discussion that everyone can now watch with the link above. You won’t come away without an opinion on who will or won’t get your support as a candidate. They were united on the fact that the current administration failed to deliver on its promises and also that it’s a complex problem requiring a range of tools to solve, including mental health services, drug treatment programs, increased voucher subsidies for temporary hardships, and what in my opinion didn’t get enough attention how to create long term solutions with income opportunities for those able to work — or as one candidate who won’t get my support called it, “willing” to work. Shams was clearly the star with the most level headed unvarnished view of the problem. He’ll dispel any preconceptions you might have about who needs support from the city and why.

    6. Paul, Florida says:

      I no longer vote in NY, but thank you for making this available.

    7. Da Homeless Hero says:

      Thanks West Side Rag for covering this event.

    8. Drew says:

      A homeless forum interesting. Are they now the majority of the city? I guess responses to the taxpayer aren’t really important.
      I guess the homeless community will now have a voice because the average citizen really has non.

    9. Alex says:

      platitudes and nothing more than another talkathon that helps no one

    10. Jan says:

      providing housing in the form of a Tiny House Village
      is both cost effective and can be done relatively quick
      and IS A SOLUTION! i don’t hear one idea for an effective solution ever
      it’s being done successfully in Montana