ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – People staged a teach-in outside of city hall on Monday evening in response to a common council vote on a panhandling resolution. Organizers fear it could lead to more resolutions that criminalize poverty.
“This is just a resolution but if it’s just a resolution why not pass a more just resolution? Why not pass a resolution that says we condemn homelessness, we don’t condemn the homeless? Why not say we support the proliferation of low-barrier shelters that are safe and comfortable and clean, instead of saying these people don’t go to shelters and it’s their fault and they don’t want housing?” said Canyon Ryan, the executive director of United Tenants of Albany.
The resolution urges people to refrain from giving money to panhandlers and instead asks people to pass out pamphlets that list resources.
He said there’s an issue with the way programs are rolled out. “Like clearly there are more systemic issues here than just folks saying can I get $2,” said Ryan.
Advocates for the houseless community said the problems are layered and need a less punitive approach. Hannah Hurley is the housing committee co-chair for the local Democratic Socialists and said there’s a need for more people who can connect house-less folks to resources, rather than targeting panhandlers.
“At the end of the day this is the free exchange of money,” said Hurley. “Personally if I see someone suffering I want to give them money, I don’t want my city discouraging me from doing that, that to me feels like a responsibility that I take on.”
Hurley called the resolution disheartening but praised some politicians for their support, including councilmember Gabriella Romero. In a statement Romero said:
“This resolution offers no solution to the current housing, drug, and mental health crises we face. I have heard from several service providers that work directly with unhoused individuals and people asking for money in the City of Albany, and they do not believe this resolution nor were consulted.
I am proud to have successfully fought for greater funding for proactive caseworker street teams that will connect those who are unhoused with services. This newly proposed city-county partnership program grew out of the Lark Street treatment pilot from this summer.
As we enter a very important budget session I hope our Common Council can regroup to focus on funding evidence-based programs and initiatives that will help our most vulnerable, make our streets safer, and ensure Albany is a protected, beautiful city for all of its residents.”
Hurley said there’s another resolution on the docket for Tuesday that targets loitering. She thinks the two resolutions are a reflection of bias, whether people realize it or not.
“If we take the unhoused and just move them out of visibility, it’s not solving homelessness. It’s creating the illusion that homelessness does not exist and you cannot continue with that,” said Hurley.
She said there will be another teach-in ahead of the loitering resolution Tuesday night at 5:30 P.M.