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Beka Economopoulos, New York CIty's "Picture the Homeless" Forms Tent City

New York CIty's "Picture the Homeless" Forms Tent City Beka Economopoulos

On Thursday at 11:00 AM, members of Picture the Homeless orchestrated a spirited occupation of a warehoused (vacant) lot, currently owned by the firm JPMorgan Chase, a recent beneficiary of billions in taxpayer bailout money.

Homeless New Yorkers and their allies turned a fenced-off grassy lot in El Barrio/East Harlem into a vibrant Tent City, creatively adorned with makeshift dwellings, colorful art and banners. Under the slogan “NYC: A Place to Call Home,” they demanded that warehoused lots and buildings be accounted for by the city, and transformed into housing for poor and homeless people.

Jean Rice, a homeless New Yorker, said: “Today, Picture the Homeless sends a message that land use must take into account the common good—as housing for the needy, not warehoused assets for the greedy.”

Hundreds rallied in support of the bold action. The organizers have invited local musicians to perform, faith leaders and community activists to engage the crowd—and community members to feast on barbecue, and discuss and debate the challenges and struggles all low-income New Yorkers face.

Picture the Homeless members note that more families are homeless now than when Mayor Bloomberg took office. When confronted with his policy failures earlier this month, the Mayor could only say that so many remain homeless because he’s made shelters “more attractive.” For Chase’s part, the New York Times quoted an executive during the October bailout: “Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase.”

Picture the Homeless member Sophia Bryant says, “The government and banks have failed miserably. Homeless people know what the problems are, and we have ideas for the solutions. Since they won’t listen, the time is now for people to take action. We don’t want shelters—we want decent housing. We will build what we need!”