The city should be moving people out of homeless shelters and into vacant apartments built during the real estate boom that now stand empty, advocates from the community organization Picture the Homeless said at a rally in Brook Park on May 19.
The Morris Avenue-based group chose the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday to hold the rally and a march to a branch of Chase Bank on East 137th Street. The aim was to draw attention to the plight of the city’s homeless population, and what it says is the Bloomberg administration’s indifference to growing numbers of people without a place to live.
Marchers dropped a banner that read “Chase: Give us Back Our City! Release Vacant Properties to House the Homeless!”
The city’s real estate development policies have led to the construction of apartment buildings throughout the city that remain unoccupied, the organization contends. It supports a bill currently before the City Council that would require the city to conduct and publicize an annual census of vacant properties. The group says such a law could help push the city to convert vacant buildings into affordable housing for low-income residents.
“It’s horrifying what you go through,” said shelter resident and group member Arvernetta Henry. “You get stuck in the system without the real programs any of us would need when we’re facing hard times.”
“The city pays more to keep someone in shelter than the cost to rent an apartment,” she continued.
“We need to end policies in this city that prioritize condos over communities, and a billion dollar shelter system over decent housing programs,” said Alease Lowe of Picture the Homeless. “We’re putting pressure on JPMorgan Chase, which got $25 billion taxpayer handout because they’re holding onto vacant buildings and lots around the city that are put to no use, while so many people here need a place to call home.”