Your Rights as a Voter

Can I vote without a permanent address?

YES! In 1984, Coalition for the Homeless filed the lawsuit Pitts v. Black, which guaranteed the right to vote for homeless New Yorkers living in shelters, on the streets, or in welfare hotels.

What do I need when I go to vote?

Nothing. Arrive at your poll site between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on August 23rd for the primary election.* As long as you registered to vote before the July 29th deadline, you do not need to show identification in order to vote. To ensure your vote is counted, you should vote in the election district where you are registered and confirm your poll site before election day. Voters can also participate in early voting between August 13th and August 21st, but the poll site for early voting may be different. For more information about your poll site, contact the NYC Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE-NYC or visit vote.nyc.

This year, all New York voters can vote by mail due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. You can select “Temporary illness” as the reason for your request. You can apply for an absentee ballot by August 8th online at vote.nyc or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC. You must postmark or drop off your absentee ballot by August 23rd. Voters are not permitted to cast a ballot on a voting machine if they have already been issued an absentee ballot for that election, but they can vote by affidavit or paper ballot if needed.

What should I do when I enter the poll site?

At the poll site, you will see tables and voting machines set up for your election district and others. At the table for your district, you will be asked to sign next to a facsimile of your signature on an alphabetized, computerized polling list. If your name does not appear on the roster, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot.

Can I vote if I was incarcerated for a felony conviction or am currently on parole?

If you were incarcerated for a felony conviction and have finished your sentence: Your rights have been reinstated and you are eligible to register and vote in this year’s elections. You can vote while on parole.

What if I have trouble trying to vote?

If your name does not appear on the computerized polling list or you are told that you are not eligible to vote, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot. After August 23rd, the Board of Elections will check its records, and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you are not eligible, along with a registration application for future elections. You may also call one of the numbers below for assistance on the day of the election.

*Note: New York will have two primary elections this summer: June 28th and August 23rd. We encourage everyone to vote in both elections, since different offices will be on the ballot for each.

For more information or assistance, contact:
NYC Board of Elections: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (toll-free)
NY Attorney General Election Hotline: 1-800-771-7755
Coalition for the Homeless: 212-776-2003

Coalition Testifies on Mayor Adams’ Housing Plan

On July 1, 2022, the Coalition for the Homeless testified before the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings regarding Mayor Adams’ housing plan. 

Last month, Mayor Adams released his housing and homelessness blueprint, Housing Our Neighbors. Regrettably, Mayor Adams’ investments in housing and homelessness do not go far enough to match the scale of the need. Likewise, his failure to articulate clear housing production goals for homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers suggests that the City will merely continue the egregiously inadequate affordable housing production levels of the previous administration – levels that clearly have not made a dent in the crisis as New York City continues to experience near-record homelessness. The situation is dire, with nearly 50,000 people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters each night and thousands more sleeping on the streets and in other shelters administered by separate City agencies.  

In a welcome departure from previous administrations, Mayor Adams’ plan incorporates expertise from those with lived experience of homelessness as well as other advocates and includes their recommendations related to affordable housing, NYCHA, and homelessness; signals the recognition that homelessness is a housing issue; and notes the need to de-silo the various City agencies involved in tackling the housing crisis. While the Coalition commends Mayor Adams’ holistic approach to housing, the plan in its current state is insufficient because it glaringly lacks clear metrics, is void of detailed policy solutions, and falls far short of sufficient investments in new housing production for homeless and extremely low-income households. As we observed following the plan’s release: 

“While Mayor Adams’ plan has some laudable goals for addressing many of the problems encountered by homeless New Yorkers, more action and investment is needed to actually reduce homelessness. Mayor Adams must dramatically expand the supply of permanent and supportive housing for homeless New Yorkers and extremely low-income households – which takes far bolder housing investments than are included in this plan. We also call on the Mayor to recognize the dignity and humanity of those who will continue to feel safer sleeping on the streets until they can obtain permanent housing by ceasing the cruel and counterproductive sweeps that merely criminalize the most vulnerable among us.” 

As we highlighted in our recent brief Housing Affordability: The Dire Housing Crisis for Extremely Low-Income New Yorkers, hundreds of thousands of households – disproportionately Black and Latinx – are on the verge of homelessness as they struggle to pay extremely high rents while New York’s vacancy rate for the most affordable apartments reaches new lows. While Housing Our Neighbors acknowledges this, it is insufficient  to change that reality.  

The solution to homelessness is housing. In our testimony, we once again urged the City to invest in permanent affordable housing and end the criminalization of unsheltered New Yorkers, a practice which is contrary to the plan’s stated goal of reducing homelessness, and counterproductive to the objective of gaining the trust of unsheltered individuals through outreach and engagement:  

Given the scale of the affordable housing crisis, the City must radically transform its housing policies rather than continuing to tinker around the edges. To start, Mayor Adams must mobilize City agencies to create at least 6,000 new apartments per year for homeless households and an additional 6,000 new apartments per year for households with extremely low incomes. This would be an ambitious but necessary increase above current production levels, particularly if the administration follows through on its plan to expand eligibility for homeless set-aside apartments beyond people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters. For context, throughout the eight years of the de Blasio administration, the City financed only about 2,100 units per year on average for homeless households and just 4,100 units per year for extremely low-income households, consisting primarily of preservation units rather than newly constructed units. The prior administration’s stubborn refusal to align their housing plan with the reality of mass homelessness meant that near-record numbers of New Yorkers languished in shelters and on the streets at the same time Mayor de Blasio touted the record production of allegedly affordable housing. Mayor Adams must learn from the mistakes of the prior administration by significantly ramping up the production of housing for homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers. 

Our testimony can be read here. For additional City and State policy recommendations, see our State of the Homeless 2022 report.  

Disability Pride Month: A Time to Celebrate and Advocate

Following the vibrancy of June’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it may be easy to overlook the annual celebration of resiliency and innovation for the disability community in July’s Disability Pride Month. Disability Pride began in Boston following the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 and has since sparked similar celebrations across the nation.

In 2022, the urgency for greater disability visibility, action, and, of course, pride has never been more pressing. More than three decades since the ADA’s passage, discrimination against people with disabilities seeking access to basic necessities remains entrenched, and the work to dismantle the related social, political, environmental, and economic barriers continues. According to CDC data, there are currently 61 million Americans who experience disability, a number that is expected to grow substantially due to the prevalence of Long COVID and an aging population. At least 26 percent of the United States population lives with disability, but despite the rising rate, people with disabilities experience poverty at double the rate of nondisabled people, and reportedly half of homeless people seeking services in the United States experience disability. In November 2019, the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) estimated that 77 percent of adult families (families without minor children), 68 percent of single adults, and 53 percent of families with children sleeping in shelters had at least one disability.

Amidst the mass-disabling event that is the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen not only a continued lack of support for Americans with disabilities but also statements from the CDC and far too many officials that de-prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people who remain at significantly heightened risk of severe illness and death due to COVID-19. We have witnessed the same reckless treatment of homeless New Yorkers with disabilities throughout the pandemic, including DHS’ premature closure of de-densification hotels intended to mitigate COVID-19-related health risks for homeless New Yorkers with disabilities starting in 2021, and continuing into 2022. Despite the landmark disability rights settlement in Butler v. City of New York, homeless people with disabilities continue to face challenges as they seek to have their needs met within the homeless services system, and as they search for accessible, affordable housing (as we discussed in New York at a Crossroads, our State of the Homeless 2022 report).

July should be a celebration of the hard-won victories people with disabilities have secured, and an opportunity for disabled community members to feel proud and revel in disability identity. For nondisabled folks, this is a moment to uplift your disabled peers and take action against the barriers that feed ableism. Disability Pride, in July and beyond, is about honoring the largest and most diverse “minority” population and challenge the oppressive systems that people with disabilities and their allies work daily to dismantle.