High: 80°F ~ Low: 57°F
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Homeless in the stormPosted Monday, October 29, 2012, at 2:53 PM
Lower Manhattan, where many people have already evacuated due to the impending danger of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Aubrey Churchward.
I lived in New York City for six months at the beginning of this year, and a little piece of my heart is left in the "City that Never Sleeps."
While I lived in New York, I worked for a non-profit organization, and almost every day I worked with homeless individuals and grew to care for many of them on a deep level.
What many people don't understand about homelessness is that it isn't just a bad situation. For many, it's a lifestyle choice. Yes, many people chose to be homeless, simply because it's easier than maintaining a home, it's cheaper and it offers more freedom than renting or home owning.
Many of the homeless individuals I met were some of the happiest people I knew in New York City. And many of them, despite other preconceived notions, held jobs, had families and lived fairly normal lives.
Regardless, being homeless in New York City is not easy. NYC is a "right to shelter city," meaning, if you truly have nowhere else to go, the city must find shelter for you for the evening.
Unfortunately, there are not enough beds and shelters for the number of homeless individuals in the city. So many people are turned away for different reasons. Despite a homeless individual's "right to shelter," city officials make it difficult for someone to prove that they truly have nowhere else to go. For example, if you have a friend or family member in the city, they'll encourage you to stay with them and decline your right to a bed for the evening. Or, if you have someone out of the city or even out of state, sometimes they'll hand you a one-way bus ticket and tell you to leave.
Sometimes an individual might not meet the deadline for signing up for a bed, or their work schedule may interfere with their opportunity to reserve a space for the evening. They may be denied space because they have children with them, or they may be separated from their boyfriend or girlfriend because they aren't legally married.
Despite the number of shelters and churches offering assistance to the homeless in NYC, life is still very difficult for them on a daily basis.
So as I watched this morning's news coverage and saw images of people leaving their swanky apartments in Lower Manhattan and seeking shelter in high-rise buildings uptown, I couldn't help but wonder, "Where are all the homeless going?"
Certainly the city is still opening the doors to their shelters when possible, but for those that are turned away, without the city's public transportation in operation, many homeless may be left with nowhere to go. NYC is a vast city, so if a homeless individual is primarily living in the lower parts of the city, nearest the water, they may be in danger.
I'm strictly speaking hypothetically, since I'm not currently living in the city and don't know exactly what's going on as far as evacuation for homeless individuals.
Homeless men and women are often unaccounted for on a daily basis, so the possibility of them being unaccounted for during a hurricane is something that definitely worries me.
Hopefully Hurricane Sandy won't be as bad as weathercasters are predicting, but if it is, I hope and pray that everyone in NYC and on the east coast, with or without a home, is safe.
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]