ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany Common Council is set to vote on a loitering ordinance Monday night. Council member Owusu Anane introduced the ordinance and said it doesn’t specifically target homeless people but advocate Hannah Hurley disagrees and said it criminalizes poverty.
Organizers gathered at Albany City Hall and advocated for quote “fighting poverty and not the poor.” They anticipate the common council will pass the loitering ordinance and said it will unfairly target homeless people. Council member Anane said that’s not the case.
“This is not a target toward homelessness. This is a target toward criminal behavior,” said Anane. “We are not going to be targeting people with disabilities or homeless individuals. We are going to be targeting those who are gambling, those who are selling drugs in our community.”
Organizers said they take issue with language in the ordinance that outlines video recordings as probable cause and a urination clause they said specifically targets the homeless. Hannah Hurley organized the rally.
“When they are adding that in, they’re not adding and addressing the need for the expansion of public bathrooms, they’re just adding that without a solution,” said Hurley. She called on the city to find viable solutions to homelessness.
“As the city of Albany continues to pass these laws, or even considers these laws, it’s damaging to the relationships with the unhoused because of the message that it sends to them. It sends, ‘We don’t like people that panhandle, we don’t like people that loiter’ instead of, ‘We want to be a resource where we can help you and you can come to us and trust us’,” said Hurley.
The solution she thinks would have the biggest positive impact is making more room in the budget. Hurley wants the mayor to include hiring more people who can connect homeless people to resources in the upcoming budget.
Advocates also want the mayor to budget for a vacancy study, which would be the first step in creating more affordable housing. Anane agreed a vacancy study is needed as well as more people need to be connected to resources.
“We are not short of services or resources for the homeless population it’s those who don’t want to get help, but there is help out there in the city of Albany for those who want help so
what we have to do better, I think as a city is we have to market those resources to the most vulnerable and say ‘hey listen this is another opportunity and another avenue you can take’,” said Anane.
Another solution they want to see, more low barrier shelters. The common council will vote on the ordinance Monday night.
“We can do both. We can offer opportunities to the most vulnerable among us, but also allow some accountability for those who believe that they can commit any kind of crime and get away with it so we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Anane.