Actor Richard Gere said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected to care for the underprivileged but it does not appear that he has the solutions voters expected.
Gere said de Blasio is taking “a lot of heat” on the level of homelessness in New York City.
“It’s a serious problem. The mayor of New York has been taking a lot of heat on this and it seems like it’s worse. And we have a mayor who was elected to be someone who was caring for those on the lower end of the economic scale and the underprivileged, and it doesn’t appear that he has the solutions that everyone would wish he might have. In talking to him myself, his only disclaimer was he had the money to do something and his solution was housing – he said, ‘But I can’t find the housing. New York is not the market where I can find units,’” Gere said at a briefing on homelessness moderated by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
“I’m not here to tell you he’s trying hard enough or has gone to the right places or gone to the correct well for that water. I don’t know. I’m trying to help him myself with just some developers that I know but he says he has the money and we’ll see if he has the will to use the money in the correct way and to twist arms and get the job done. But it certainly doesn’t feel it it’s getting better. It feels like it’s getting worse in New York,” he added.
Gere, who plays a homeless man in New York City in the new film Time Out of Mind, met with de Blasio to discuss the homeless problem in the city.
Waters said it does not feel like Los Angeles is making any progress on combating homelessness, either.
“I have been feeling pretty poorly about homelessness. Since my last visit to downtown Skid Row in Los Angeles I came away almost depressed,” she said.
Gere said the solution to tackling homelessness is about more than providing housing. To back up his point, Gere referred to a news report about a homeless community that rejected housing offered by a group of local business owners.
“You have to give time. You have to give patience. You have to be real for them, to trust them enough to accept the housing and that that was going to be better for them,” he said.
Waters praised Gere for dedicating his time to the issue and asked if he had a message for Congress.
“I want to thank you, congresswoman. You’re an extraordinary person. This is not the kind of thing that people want to do; it’s not easy, and the few dollars that one can get in a very difficult time to get money, this is not one of those projects that is very sexy right now. It’s hard to see where one can go and be truly effective,” he told Waters.
Gere said the fund that helps people on the verge of losing their homes in New York City is an effective way to prevent homelessness.
“It’s obviously much easier to give that little amount of money to keep people in the homes, their apartments, whatever it may be, than to deal with them once they have lost their home and have started this rapid deterioration that I see and respond to on the streets,” he said.
Gere said he told de Blasio there is no “one size fits all” solution to the problem.
“These are human beings. Everyone’s got a different problem,” he said.
He told the audience that some people did not recognize him during the filming of the movie in New York City.
“From two blocks away, they saw the cliché of that mentally ill guy on the corner who probably would assault them and was going to ask for too much money – and whatever that cliché was they had in their mind, and projected that on me. This is what happens to people out in the street who are vaguely in this territory of homeless – whether it be chronic or it happened yesterday,” he said.