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OpEd – “We Have To Talk About NYC’s Homeless Problem”

OpEd - “We Have To Talk About NYC’s Homeless Problem”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Gary Hershorn/Corbis via Getty Images)

 

A close friend of mine recently opened up to me about her experience and struggle with homelessness. She spoke to me about some of the reasons that once forced her into a difficult situation. As she began to tell her story, I remember the sorrow I felt pouring out of her. I recall her exact words.

“I never thought I would ever, in a million years live in an abandoned truck parked in a sketchy part of my neighborhood.”

At the time, Christie had just graduated high school and was trying to secure a job in order to help her mother with bills. She was a normal teen, preparing herself for college and eventually adulthood. Though all things seemed fine on the surface, Christie and her mother argued and fought constantly which devastatingly led to Christie’s mother kicking her out of the home. During this time Christie was unemployed and unprepared for the cold unforgiving streets.

After a few days, Christie scouted a truck that was missing its wheels in a parking lot for a safe place to sleep. So in she climbed, hungry, confused and alone. She mentioned to me that because she had no money of her own, there were many days where she often went without access to food and water. While holding back tears, she expressed to me how thankful she is for everything she has. Though I have never found myself in a similar situation as Christie, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to survive 10 minutes without a home. I commend Christie for her resilience and inner strength which guided her out of a helpless situation. She reminded me to be appreciative of what I have and helped me to understand some of the reasons why people end up homeless.

All across The United States, specifically New York City, there are many people currently experiencing homelessness. While not every case of homelessness shares the same circumstances as Christies’, the pain and discomfort experienced are synonymous. Though someone like Christie can push through their hardships and survive, this is not always the same for others.

On any given day the streets of New York City are loitered with empty water bottles, floating pieces of paper, used food containers and living human beings. You can ride the subway to almost any stop and find at least one or two homeless individuals. According to Coalitionforthehomeless.org, as of 2019 approximately a total of 99,395 men, women and children are currently experiencing homelessness. In a period of abundance within the United States, many people still live below the poverty line. Numerous families and friends, like Christie have shared in this unnecessary desperate situation. There is no reason good enough to justify these numbers. The fact that almost 100,000 people, some of those being innocent children, have to experience hunger, isolation, and wait in line for a bed in a shelter is completely undignified.

These individuals are thus exposed to a rough life and forced to literally sleep under the stars. The homeless have often been subjected to harsh treatment from other passerby’s such neglect or being told to “Get A Job!”. In addition, exposure to New York’s harsh winter weather, the crippling side effects of loneliness and lack of access to medical care can all take a toll on even the toughest person.

A recent New York Post article, “Homeless deaths spike amid all-time high in population under Mayor de Blasio”highlights the mortality rates amongst the growing homeless population. It asserts, “Homeless deaths from July 2018 through June 2019 totaled 404 — a staggering 39% increase from the previous fiscal year and the highest number since 2006, when the city began recording the deaths.”

In a span of one year, homelessness has claimed the lives of 404 individuals and will continue to reap more. As of 2019, the main reasons listed in the article that attribute to the death toll are drug use, ex. alcohol consumption, heart disease, accidents and cancer. Homelessness is an inexcusable reason which adds to the mortality rate in New York City and is in dire need of relief.

Prior mayors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, made poor choices to clear the homeless off the streets of NYC through force and arrest. This quick fix ‘solution’ brought rise to resistance of future programs by the homeless. The entire approach was not well planned nor executed in the right manner. Both Mayors seemed to cause more harm and panic rather than provide relief. Mayor de Blasio’s current attempts to tackle the homeless crisis with more shelters and outreach programs is not the answer. And because the homeless population have developed a distaste for the shelters, the situation can only escalate.

Looking closer, I noticed domestic violence as one of the main reasons that may drive someone to a shelter program. I came across an article by The New York Post, “Half of NYC’s homeless domestic-violence victims feel unsafe in shelters” which voiced the concerns of domestic-violence survivors whom now flock to the city’s shelter programs as a way of escape.

Despite the good intentions of these institutions, there are some obvious drawbacks. The article argues, “…12,540 victims — or more than 75 percent, mainly women and children — are being housed in regular shelters with publicly available addresses, making it easier for their abusers to track them down…” The state’s efforts to strengthen the homeless community is both ironic and quite sad. How can this system work to protect these victims when its displaying their location to the abusers?

Some functioning analyses I derived from this article were recognizing domestic violence as a cause for homelessness, a lack of awareness in society and the misconceived efforts by state officials. I can only hope that others may realize this as well. Domestic violence has become one of the main causes of homelessness but yet it is hardly addressed. Imagine the number of mothers, fathers, children, sleeping elsewhere because they cannot sleep at home. I feel for the children who have to be separate from either parent due to these circumstances.

As claimed in the article, Carol Corden, the head of a non-profit organization, New Destiny Housing, also makes it clear that the addition of more beds in a shelter is not the solution but rather a useless quick fix. It is someone like Corden whom reminds me are still some people with good intentions in this world. Through the use of New Destiny, she was able to provide relief to a single mother of two with an apartment in the Bronx.

The way in which we as a society provide help to the homeless should further be cross examined and reformed. The means in which help is offered to the homeless population should be designed to accommodate their struggles and not burden them. The officials in charge of tackling this heavy weighted problem need to reassess the parameters of homelessness and introduce a solution that’s viable to all. No human being deserves to be homeless and rejected by society. We need to accept the homelessness in New York City rather than shield ourselves from it.

There is no immediate remedy for homelessness. However, with awareness, intervention and prevention, the future can be secure and bright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

  1. Coalition For The Homeless, “Basic Facts About Homelessness: New York City”,

https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/

  1. Dorn, Sarah and Henry, Jacob, “Homeless deaths spike amid all time high in population under Mayor de Blasio” New York Post, © 2020 NYP HOLDINGS, INC., 18/1/2020, https://nypost.com/2020/01/18/homeless-deaths-spike-amid-all-time-high-in-population-under-mayor-de-blasio/

 

  1. Marsh, Julia, “Half of NYC’s homeless domestic-violence victims feel unsafe in shelters” New York Post, © 2020 NYP HOLDINGS, INC., 2/2/2020, https://nypost.com/2020/02/02/half-of-nycs-homeless-domestic-violence-victims-feel-unsafe-in-shelters/

 

  1. Christie, Personal Interview, 2, February 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

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