NEW YORK (SDS) — On Wednesday April 30 college students, community residents, and organizers will join the homeless to sleep on the street for 12 hours in protest of New York City’s affordable housing and homelessness crises. Near-record levels of New Yorkers were homeless last year, yet there is enough vacant property and lots in Manhattan alone to house all the homeless people in the five boroughs combined, according to a report by Picture the Homeless.
Speculative landlords keep buildings vacant for years, waiting to cash in on inflating property values. Meanwhile rents rise at alarming rates. Today low income New Yorkers pay over 50 percent of their annual income in rent, according to NYU’s Furman Center.
Homelessness is a systemic problem that has its roots in the housing market and its failure to provide adequate proportions of affordable housing for New Yorkers. Yet the image of homeless folks as socially dysfunctional individuals remains. The homeless are criminalized through selective enforcement of quality-of-life laws, which restrict acts like sleeping, drinking alcohol, and urinating in public, among others. These are acts that most people can perform in their homes without penalty. A survey led by Picture the Homeless found systematic discrimination against the homeless by police officers—a sign that targeting the homeless is an implicit police policy.
The housing crisis affects most New Yorkers, homeless or not. As we approach the 4 year anniversary of Bloomberg’s 5 year plan to reduce homelessness, it’s time to tell Mr. Bloomberg his plan has failed.
The groundbreaking HOUSING NOT WAREHOUSING legislation, written by homeless people and City Councilmember Tony Avella, will stop landlords from keeping vacant property and ensure that affordable housing is developed from these properties. During the Sleep Out, protesters will call their City Council members and urge them to pass this legislation.
We are staging this Sleep Out in support of civil rights and housing campaigns by the Bronx-based organization Picture the Homeless. Even if you have only an hour to spare on April 30, drop by and join us in our act of solidarity with community organizations and homeless folks. Participants are encouraged to bring cardboard and plastic for protection from the cold ground and rain.
Our message: Homelessness is not a crime. Housing is a human right. Our Sleep Out begins at 7 p.m. and will last until 7 a.m. Come sleep with us at the corner of 5th Ave and 13th St.