19:38 GMT28 November 2020
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    The practice of photographing homeless people is the first step in a plan to expose social problems in New York, Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) President Ed Mullins told Sputnik.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On August 11, local media reported the SBA, a labor union representing 12,000 active and retired sergeants of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), urged off-duty policemen to take photographs of the homeless on the streets and post them on its Flickr campaign page to document quality of life problems.

    "This is the first of several steps to come," Mullins said on Thursday. "The idea is to create awareness about the quality of life conditions in New York City."

    However, the suggestion set off an immediate backlash, with New York City Councilman Stephen Levin calling the campaign unacceptable.

    On August 18, dozens of protesters against "poor shaming" gathered at New York City Hall, and called for real solutions to homelessness.

    Mullins argued that the idea behind the initiative was not to pick on the homeless, but to hold city officials accountable for their inability to solve existing problems.

    "The role of government should be to put quality programs in place rather than just sit back and ignore such activity, and that is where we are going with this."

    Mullins suggested that those who attacked the initiative were embarrassed because their own passivity on the issue had been exposed.

    "I raise the question: What did they do to the homeless? Why is this occurring if what they were doing actually worked?"

    The SBA plans to continue drawing attention to problems in New York City.

    Mullins told Sputnik the next step will be to highlight the increase in crime.

    "We see a lot of gun violence in communities of color, and again, we have public officials who are basically yelling about the police… but what are they doing to educate people in the communities?"

    Over the past ten years, the number of homeless people in New York City grew by 71 percent, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. In June 2015, homeless shelters in New York City held an average of 58,761 people per night.


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