Toba Potosky: We Are Failing Our Neighbors Without Homes
New Yorkers are well familiar with the problems of homelessness. This has been an issue the city, indeed the country, has grappled with for many years. The confluence of mental illness, high housing costs, poverty, and government inaction have made homelessness seem an intractable problem. It is not. As a candidate to represent the 33rd District in the City Council, I have been reviewing our present condition, but let me share a recent experience that made this even more top-of-mind.
While walking my dog back from the park the other day, I saw a man in only pants and sneakers standing across the street from my home, urinating into a sewer grate. A woman with a baby carriage stood in the crosswalk, waiting for him to finish before proceeding in his direction. Moments later, she passed, looking straight ahead, pretending not to see what we both just witnessed.
My heart sank as I watched this unfold before me. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 36 years. I remember the 80’s. I remember the number of people without homes I’d see on the street, wondering if some spare coins from my pocket would equal kindness or a guarantee they will continue to live on the street. Survival is the name of the game. It still is.
When I decided to run for the NY City Council, it wasn’t so much for my friends, neighbors, and relatives to come to a rally, donate funds, or wear supportive buttons. I ran for this man, and so many like him. People who will never know my name or care to know my name, but that doesn’t matter. This person is statistically unlikely to be voting on June 22, but I will fight to get elected so that our new City Council can be better stewards of all New Yorkers.
We need to adopt an attitude of “too big to fail.” This human life needs us. This human being and the 80,000 sleeping in shelters – along with the countless number on the street – are “too big to fail.” This current administration is failing them, which means in real terms, we are failing them.
Here is some perspective. Since 2018, our city has spent $3 billion a year on homelessness programs. We need to pivot those funds into programs that work, like Provisional Housing with on-site Supportive Services. Our shelter system does not offer safety, security, or stability – key factors necessary to begin recovery. Certainly, homelessness is a quality-of-life issue for everyone. But for those without homes, it is a matter of life and death.
On June 22, I want you to remember in part that you are voting for those who cannot vote. You are voting for those who genuinely need our help. You are voting for all of us.
Toba Potosky is a candidate for New York City Council in District 33, representing Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy. To learn more about Toba and his plans, visit www.toba2021.com.
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