New York City has an incredible amount of areas worth visiting. In fact, there seems to be monuments, parks, and towers amongst us on every corner of this incredible city. It is clear that there are millions of dollars being supplied to the maintenance and appeal of these areas. For example, the Bowling Green Park in lower Manhattan has encompassed many attractions including a waterfront restaurant, amusement park rides for children, and Mini-Cruises. Last year, New York has seen some 61 million tourists visiting New York City; a number which has greatly surpassed previous years. The amount of energy, manpower, and employment that these parks have required from the community is monstrous, and this leads us with one pondering question toying in the back of our minds – Why can we afford these expenses while we still see so much struggle and lacking elsewhere? A block down from the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pool, there sleeps a starving family of four. Amongst the bright lights of Times Square, a homeless woman and her son beg. Either there is a complex and slow-to-start trickle-down public service set in motion, or there is a fundamental problem with our resource allocation in New York City.
Whether we avoid eye contact from the occasional begger, or cough-up a dollar now and then to clear our conscious, it doesn’t change the fact that there are well over 76 thousands homeless people in New York City alone*. We have by far the largest homeless population among all the cities in the nation and are seeing a larger increase each year(NAEH). There seems to be another common question we ask ourselves as the skeptical working class population that we are – Why don’t these people find jobs in a city with so many employment options? It is important to keep in mind that over thirty percent of the United States homeless population consists of families who often times cannot leave their children to work jobs. Also, the individuals without children often find themselves shut-out due to uninterested employers; businesses that don’t want under-qualified workers with disabilities or insufficient qualifications that may make their business look bad. The worst part about the homelessness statistic has to be it’s devastating youth increase. From 2016 to 2017, we’ve seen a 14.3% increase in unaccompanied children and young adults while the number of homeless people grouped in families has dropped 5.2%. This shows that the growing population of homeless people are trending towards young, single individuals. This leaves more and more young people shut out from help and living in a massive city of unfamiliar faces with little to do about it.
The difference between Los Angeles and New York City is considerable when looking into homelessness. Here in the Big Apple, about 95% of our homeless population are living in shelters while Los Angeles only has 25%. To some extent, this can be a blessing and a curse for homeless New Yorkers. Though it is good to see people off the streets, this is also acting as a band-aid solution; masking the real issues that revolve around the center of homelessness in our city. There is also an increase in pride, which shows more people choosing to stay outdoors and fending for themselves. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke on behalf of the mayor this past December saying that they would implement affordable housing plans to help homeless New Yorkers in the upcoming year (Lazo, 1). It is’t hard to see that this is something along the lines of stalling, due to the low numbers of affordable housing made available since 2017. As a result of increasing median gross rent and the decreasing of median renter income, there is little significant strive we can make by simply piling more people into dull rooms.
I’d like to present an example of this phenomenon by using an instance from another country. The Fifa World Cup of 2014 was held in several cities in Brazil; primarily in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The country dumped funds equivalent to millions of U.S. dollars into renovations and constructions of sporting facilities and making the surrounding areas suitable to wealthy visitors. It became clear that the country was making preparations to host attendants from around the world and to become the center of the world’s media attention. The Brazilian citizens were in uproar as a result, and began rioting; blocking off major outlets and construction sites. Brazil has incredibly divided socioeconomic classes and this issue seemed to finally boil over after the initiation of these huge government project. The nation holds only two primary classes, one being moderately wealthy while the other being, to our standards, impoverished. Citizens of Brazil, both rich and poor, violently protested these events in angry at the Brazilian government, claiming they did little for their own people while investing so much in these sporting events (Phillips, 1). Though Brazil has been on the rise from general corruption in the past few decades with the election of their new President, it still has its fair share of problems; much more so than the United States.
I believe that this form of corruption is quite possibly present within our state governments, specifically in New York City. Though it may not be as obvious or severe as in Brazil’s case in 2014, it may be very much present nevertheless. Corruption can come in many shapes and forms, it is imperative that we focus on the good of the public and assist the least fortunate in order to propel our society in the right direction. It can be understood well within John Rawls book, “A Theory of Justice,” that only when we are satisfied and happy with the lives of all our citizens conditions will we fully reach the state of a just and fair nation. Until this is the case however, we must strive towards fulfilling the lives of everyone and supplying everyone with the tools for success, especially those least fortunate. Families and individuals living in New York City, Los Angeles, and even Brazil should be able to count on their government for help as long as they’re willing to help themselves as much as they can.
Kurt Cobain of the rock-band Nirvana was homeless in the streets of Seattle for several months before he began pursuing music. The experience inspired him to write a song titled, “Something In the Way.” There truly is a barricade locking hundreds of thousands of homeless people out from access to the pursuit of happiness in America. We must work together and not simply alleviate our conscious with the occasional donation to the common beggar. It is our job as citizens of the world to band together, build homes, feed the needy, and do our part. There is always more to accomplish, and only together will we finally join forces and shatter that invisible barricade that divides us, and create wholesome unity and prosperity for all.