Today’s Read: What Homeless New Yorkers Should Demand From the Mayor’s Housing Plan

Record homelessness demands bold action. The House Our Future NY campaign, led by the Coalition for the Homeless and 58 partner organizations, is urging Mayor de Blasio to dedicate at least 10 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan to homeless New Yorkers – 30,000 units, including 24,000 units to be created through new construction. This week, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson echoed the call already made by 38 other elected officials for more homeless set-asides. That leaves Mayor de Blasio as one of the only City leaders who has not yet embraced this commonsense plan. Next Wednesday, we will march to the Mayor’s home, Gracie Mansion, to show the broad support for this critical campaign.

Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, an activist with VOCAL-NY who has been homeless for three years, confronted the Mayor at the YMCA gym on October 5th to ask him why he obstinately refuses to agree to this reasonable request. After a video of the Mayor dismissing Ms. Flowers at the gym went viral, the Mayor offered a meeting with his staff, who listened to our demands but made no commitments. Yesterday, Ms. Flowers wrote an op-ed for the Daily News about why this campaign is so important to her and the 62,000 other New Yorkers currently sleeping in shelters:

The mayor should be ashamed: Out of the 300,000 units in his affordable housing plan, only 5% is set aside for the homeless. I am fighting to change that. I want the mayor to set aside at least 10% of his affordable housing plan for homeless New Yorkers, with 24,000 of those units to be created through new construction to get people rehoused more quickly.

The video of the YMCA confrontation spread all over the internet. In response, the mayor dug his heels in. He refused to commit more housing for homeless people in his city and he criticized me for trying to talk to him at the gym. He said there needs to be some “civility” when people are in their private lives.

“Civility”: I’ve heard that response from people in power before. Let me remind the mayor that I am 72 years old. I remember the civil rights movement; I was a part of it. It wasn’t the mayor’s idea of civility that won black Americans — including the mayor’s wife and kids — the right to vote. People in power — even “progressives” — attack activists when their power and reputation is on the line.

I’ve spent the last three years in a homeless shelter, as 62,000 people do every night in this city. I’ve gotten to know some of the women who live with me. Many have become my closest friends. We celebrate birthdays, wedding and graduations together. We share many things in common: We are mothers, we’re independent, some of us are retired, and we faced huge adjustments in our lives when we lost our housing.

I am from Flatbush, but my shelter is in Queens. I have to leave my room each morning by 9 a.m., and be back by curfew at 10 p.m. Our toilet paper is rationed, because the shelter has so many plumbing issues. There is one microwave for 200 women. I’m a vegetarian and the options for food at my shelter are sparse, at best.

These are some of the reasons why it makes me so upset to hear de Blasio say his affordable housing plan is for “every kind of New Yorker.” Not every kind of New Yorker has a curfew, shares a room, can’t cook dinner for herself, stores their few possessions in a locker, or is rationed toilet paper.