By Jessica Meditz
Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa met with this paper’s editorial board last week to discuss a handful of city issues and how he would navigate them if elected.
One of the most pressing issues he touched on is the treatment of homeless people and emotionally disturbed persons in the city.
Sliwa can be seen on social media interacting with homeless people who are living on the streets and in the subways, and often calls out officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio and his democratic opponent, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, for not doing the same.
Sliwa believes that homeless outreach efforts have taken a turn for the worse as a result of the police being defunded by $1 billion, which he says severely impacted the Homeless Outreach Unit.
“Cops would go into the shelters, they would go into the hotels,” he said. “They would deal with EDPs and homeless people, more so than at the precinct level.”
Sliwa would close the 28 MICA shelters, which deal with mentally-ill and substance-abusing people, in the city.
“Those have to be closed,” he said. “You can’t have emotionally disturbed persons in shelters, they need care. They need to be in a mental healthcare hospital getting their meds.”
He supports reopening Camp LaGuardia upstate, a facility for the mentally ill and substance abusers that was closed during the Bloomberg administration.
Sliwa argues the camp would allow these individuals to overcome their substance abuse problems, as well as offer job training that may assist them with employment opportunities in the future.
Last month, Sliwa led a rally to celebrate local efforts that prevented the city from housing homeless people at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, but said the issue of using hotels to house the homeless is an issue for many neighborhoods.
Sliwa said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks “shoved these shelters down people’s throats” with no transparency or discussion. The argument is that the hotels allow homeless people who need shelter to remain in their community where they have a support system.
But Sliwa says he has had conversations with homeless individuals living in hotel shelters far from where they are originally from.
The mayoral hopeful says he requested a meeting with Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss his opposition to legislation that would allow the state to buy hotels currently housing the homeless to make them permanent shelters. Sliwa says he has not heard back.
“A man or a woman, single, able-bodied should be able to have their own apartment, not have to live in a shelter in a dormitory-style way in which it’s not healthy for them,” he said. “They’re constantly being preyed on, it’s Darwinian.
“I’ve been in enough of them in which the shelter guards, whether they’re private security or Department of Homeless Services, have a no-touch policy,” Sliwa added “How are you going to control some people who are going to use force to try to shake down and extort other homeless people?”