By Sabina Mollot
Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, who recently bested an East Village hospitality executive in an unusually competitive primary, must still face two opponents in the upcoming general election. Neither opponent is well known or well-funded, and this is especially true of Green Party candidate Scott Hutchins, who’s been in New York’s shelter system for the past six and a half years.
Still, this isn’t the first time Hutchins, 42, has attempted to run for office, and since he has bounced from shelter to shelter in recent years (though not by choice), he has done so in more than one district.
When he filed his petition, he was staying in a shelter in Long Island City, but he has since been transferred to a hotel in Bushwick. Hutchins initially attempted to do an interview with this newspaper by phone, but his government-issued cell hasn’t been working right since he dropped it a few weeks ago, shattering its screen. During the interview, he lost service after a few minutes, which he had warned would probably happen. So he later met up with a Town & Village reporter at a Coffeed shop in Flatiron, to share his reasons for running and for sticking with a party that’s as broke as he is.
Maloney, he feels, has a conservative voting record, on economic policy and bank regulations, including leading up to the economic crisis a decade ago. He also brought up that Maloney had initially voted to support the Iraq war. “Even though she had tons of protesters in her district.”
He also disagrees with her decision to co-sponsor the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. “It’s unconstitutional to say you can’t boycott them,” he said, “when you look at all the casualties on Gaza’s side and no Israeli casualties,” he said.
In an email, he explained, “I’m for boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning all major human rights-abusing countries including China, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Malaysia.”
On Maloney, Hutchins added, “If you’re going to call yourself progressive, when it comes to economic things and immigration things, she’s not in favor of abolishing ICE, and these are things that push her to the center and possibly to the right.”
Hutchins has been Green for years, and scoffs at the idea that his is a party of spoilers.
“The assumption is that everyone on the left owes the Democratic Party their vote,” he said. “But when they vote in Congress, they do things that support big corporations. In the Green Party, we call that the corporate duopoly. We’re a legitimate party with a legitimate platform. Jill Stein, in 2012, ran against Roseanne Barr and won (the party nomination). Of course now we know she’s a right-wing nut job, but back then she ran as a Green.”
Hutchins, who has a master’s degree in film from CUNY’s College of Staten Island, said he has been homeless since 2010, when he was fired from a ghostwriting job after three months by a friend from his graduate school who’d hired him. At first he slept in a truck, then headed to Connecticut, where he stayed with a friend until that friend urged him to go to a shelter.
He has been unable to obtain steady work since, which may or may not in part be due to various physical conditions that don’t allow him to be on his feet for long; he isn’t sure. It could also be that he blogs about the homeless experience, or just too much competition for jobs. Hutchins has scoliosis, sciatica, herniated discs and overactive bladder and gout. While he is not technically disabled — he claims to have applied for disability only to be denied — he can only do desk work. That said, he believes, should he manage to get elected, he could attend press conferences and other events where a politician’s presence is expected, as long as he brings a cane with him. In fact, he’s managed to march in protests that way.
At the moment he works downtown as freelance book editor. However, once that project concludes next month, he’ll be back to looking for work.
“I do want to win, but I have no illusions,” said Hutchins, who hasn’t fundraised or campaigned beyond handing out flyers occasionally.
Still, no one’s tried to talk him out of running against a 25-year incumbent. He’d already run for Assembly once in The Bronx’s 65th District and in Manhattan’s District 74 (a seat currently occupied by Harvey Epstein) in 2016. He tried to run in 2014, but said that a fellow Green Party member who’d accompanied him while petitioning “absconded” with his signatures, and he never made it onto the ballot.
His last job was working 30-35 hours a week doing customer service for minimum wage and in total, he’s worked seven, low-paying jobs since becoming homeless. (He’s applied for over 3,000 positions.) While his current job isn’t low-paying, he doesn’t work enough hours to afford an apartment, he explained. He was never street homeless other than in brief intervals between shelters and crashing with friends. Both Hutchins’ parents are deceased, and he said that while he did get some inheritance money when his mother died last year, he expects even in a shelter, the money will be gone in several years since he still has to buy food, MetroCards and rent a storage locker for belongings that won’t fit into his hotel room.
The current hotel is certainly not the worst place he’s stayed; that description belongs to a shelter he refers to as “the rat hole.” He asked that the location not be identified out of fear of retaliation. The nicest place he’s stayed was an Avenue D location of the Bowery Mission that was later emptied of its residents and turned private. There, Hutchins had a private room, although it was stiflingly hot, due to air conditioning that only cooled the building’s hallways.
The shelter system can sometimes be chaotic with mandatory 48-hour notices of transfers that aren’t always honored, Hutchins said.
At one of them, “They were knocking on the door while I was in the shower, telling me I’m being transferred,” he recalled. Paperwork errors by employees can also lead to mail being sent to former shelter addresses.
But it’s better than it used to be. Since Mayor de Blasio took office, shelters can no longer kick clients out in the mornings, leaving those unemployed or not working until later in the day with nowhere to go but the library. He still says there are sometimes what he refers to as “retaliatory” transfers” for publicly complaining about the shelter system, which he said he did in a report he contributed to called “The Business of Homelessness” put out by an organization Hutchins is involved with called Picture the Homeless.
“Shelters are all about making money,” said Hutchins. “CEOs of some of these providers are making $500,000 a year.”
Hutchins is actually against de Blasio’s plan to open 90 shelters, saying he’d rather see more low-income housing get built.
“They shouldn’t be building homeless shelters for working adults; they should be building housing priced for their income level,” said Hutchins. “We (Picture the Homeless) want the shelter system phased out in favor of housing so that there are far fewer shelters, far more housing, and shelter stays are much briefer. Some of us will probably go so far as to say to abolish the shelter system, but it can’t be done overnight. The goal is to replace the shelter system with housing.”
He also blasted lotteries for new developments he’s seen near shelters with minimum income levels for applicants being higher than what current neighborhood residents can pay. Not to mention the homeless.
“In Bushwick, they’re building housing where the minimum income is $106,000 a year,” said Hutchins. “Because it’s based on the area median income, and that includes the suburbs. Most homeless people who are working make maybe $10,000-$30,000 a year.”
Hutchins’ platform also includes eliminating student debt. According to his online bio, he has been able to pay only $100 toward his over $65,000 student loan debt. He supports a ban on hydrofracking and he is anti-war. He also supports House Resolution 138, which he said would end funding of the Saudi war in Yemen.