Longtime Homeless-led Organization Says it May Shut Doors

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Sam Miller

Members of Picture the Homeless at a rally.

Picture the Homeless, a long-standing advocacy organization led for and by homeless people, is raising money to keep the doors to its East 126th street office open.

The organization is operating part-time after having temporarily closed its doors in June when its liability insurance lapsed and rent payments fell behind. It is currently accepting donations through a GoFundMe page.

“We currently have no staff, and are operating with a handful of leaders and volunteers, making sure folks can use the office, get their mail – and get justice!,” the page reads.

“Moving forward, we’re not going to be able to sustain our office or our staff,” says treasurer William Burnett.

The organization has fought for homeless rights and served as a place for homeless individuals to organize since its inception in 2003.

It is unique in being founded and led by homeless individuals.

“We self-organize,” says Burnett. “Because of that our members tend to see things a little differently than say a coalition of social workers.”

“Picture the Homeless is a space where homeless people themselves get to be heard and move change around what homeless people themselves recognize as the root causes of homelessness,” he says.

The organization has organized campaigns around development of affordable housing for homeless people, over policing and police reform, community land trusts, rights of homeless individuals and the “Shelter Industrial Complex“.

It has received funding from various sources, including foundations and individual contributions.

A critical grant that was expected earlier this year did not materialize, leading to an unexpected shortfall, says Burnett. A $100,000 GoFundMe goal is a stop-gap measure, he says, while the organization re-groups.

Last December, Picture the Homeless led a protest demanding that an East Harlem public bathroom be re-opened.

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