NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Putting the homeless in hotels in New York has become a contentious issue, pitting neighborhoods against each other and putting city leaders on the hot seat with claims of mismanagement and rising crime rates.

But in this debate we don’t often hear from the homeless, themselves.

CBS2’s Dave Carlin has one man’s story about homelessness and life in a hotel shelter.

“I never thought that I’d wind up in a homeless shelter when I was a kid,” Sal Salomon said.

He was 8 years old when he attended public school in Hell’s Kitchen. Forty years later, he found himself on the streets and then in a series of New York City homeless shelters.

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He documented his time in shelters, from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx. He likened it to prison.

Salomon also knows what prison was like.

“When I was 19 I got locked up and I went to prison, for stealing a car. I changed my direction, got my GED, went to college while I was in jail,” Salomon said.

At the age of 24 he was out and pursuing music. To this day he sings.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The high point of his music career was working on a song for a movie soundtrack, “The Wrestler,” which was nominated for an Oscar.

But then several loved ones died — brothers, both parents, and a best friend. Depression wrecked his marriage and he wound up homeless.

“Sleeping on a bench, sleeping on a train, I totally didn’t want to live,” Salomon said. “I wound up becoming one of those people that you look at.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic he was moved to a hotel near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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Some people in neighborhoods across the city are upset homeless are in hotels. Salomon said he understands their reasoning.

“A part of me agrees with them. Who wants craziness in front of your doorstep? Help divert these funds that are going to these private companies, that are just warehousing them, and use those funds for qualified psychiatrists,” Salomon said.

He has been out of the hotel a week now. A relative is giving him a place to stay in Hell’s Kitchen.

“I see myself singing more and getting more gigs,” Salomon said.

He wants everyone to think of him when they see someone on the streets, adding, before they judge, “You see a guy down and out and he’s sitting down, he may be hungry. He may be depressed. Depression was the number one thing that I saw.”

Salomon has lived it. He said there is always hope.

Salomon now has a gig at a local bar and will be performing twice a week.

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