Once Upon A Time, Home
By Miriam Medina
Modern Homelessness 2007
The Homeless! A visible, persistent feature of urban
life. Unkempt people dressed in tattered garments
lugging all their worldly possessions in carts and shopping
bags; rummaging through trash cans and dumpsters looking for
food. They can be seen at the
bus and train stations; under bridges; in the alleyways; in
abandoned buildings; at burger joints; on cathedral steps;
in abandoned cars; lying about on the streets, covered or enclosed in cardboard
boxes, etc. You can even find them at the city's airports,
though invisible among the masses of arriving and departing
passengers... They just have nowhere to go.
As the darkness of the night begins to set in, there is a
mad rush for the park benches where these homeless wretches
are looking for a place to sleep. For these people, finding
shelter is becoming a more urgent necessity than food. When
the weather or street life becomes unbearable, the temporary
emergency shelters are their refuge. Only a couple of nights
are permitted to each person, to avoid the risk of
dependency, instead of relying on being self-sufficient.
They line up by the thousands in front of the local
shelters, which are already filled to capacity, turning most
away. Sadly those who cannot find shelter are forced to
return to the streets, where they will continue to be
exposed to the dangers of physical violence, being attacked
or killed by rats, severe elements of weather as well as
all other risks. There are just not enough
beds or shelters to go around.
diverse group of people, among which are the" young and old;
black, white and Hispanic; male and female; the highly
educated and illiterate; "are faced daily with the difficult
task of finding food to eat, a safe place to sleep,
maintaining personal hygiene, as well as securing some form
of income, whether it be from collecting cans, selling whatever
they could find, prostitution, fencing stolen goods or
selling for drug dealers. For the drug users, their main
concern is finding the next fix. Because of malnutrition,
exposure to the severe elements of weather, and communicable
diseases from the unsanitary conditions that they live in,
the street homeless are frequently sick. The emergency rooms
and free care clinics are filled with these needy
individuals seeking free medical attention where most of them are
given "low priority, unless critical."
There are many factors today that are placing individuals
at a high risk of modern homelessness.
1. Large corporations in order to continue making a profit will down
size or eliminate their manpower by shutting down facilities
that are not productive. These
financial upheavals throw multitudes into unemployment.
As a result of these layoffs and rising costs, many have
been pushed over the brink into homelessness.
2. For those who have been incarcerated and are discharged,
employment is very difficult to find. Employers are hesitant
about giving jobs to individuals with prison records.
Not only are they socially isolated from friends and family,
they also have no resources to fall back on to pay for
living expenses, which places them at a high risk of
3. With the high cost of housing, it is getting more and
more difficult for those of the poverty level income and working
class to get a decent place to live. With the sluggish
economy, any expectation of an increase in their wages is
almost near to naught.
4. Disasters, man-made or natural causes have hurled
families by the thousands into homelessness.
5. There are also included in this group the mentally ill,
veterans, drug users, and alcoholics, which are in great
need of medical and psychiatric care. These individuals that
suffer from substance abuse, if not treated, will keep them
from being self-sustained making it extremely difficult to
move beyond homelessness.
6. Individuals with family problems, emotional difficulties,
as well as those fleeing sexual, physical and mental abuse,
often find themselves without a home. Many of them
eventually succumb to drug addiction, prostitution and crime.
7. There is also another class of homeless individuals.
These are the permanent ones that prefer the homeless
lifestyle and have adapted themselves to it. They hate to
work. Avoiding responsibilities, they much rather lie around
being lazy living the life of a bum. They cherish their
independence. They are not concerned with how they will
survive, especially in a city like this where plenty
of good food is thrown away every day, as well as the
availability of hot goods and drugs to sell. They are shrewd
street businessmen. Somehow this type, always seem to fare better
than those who are left homeless, by misfortune or by their
Most of the people who are homeless would rather not be.
Interacting with each other may bring some form of comfort, but
it does not compensate the estrangement from their families
and friends. The Department of Homeless Services in
partnership with public and private agencies addresses
these needs by providing outreach services to enable people
to assume responsibility for achieving independent living.
Coalition for the Homeless has released a report
analyzing the significant increase in family homelessness in
New York City throughout 2006. Highlights of the report
include the following:
A.. Family homelessness in New York City has
increased by 11 percent this year. The number of homeless
families in shelters has risen nearly every month of 2006.
B.. The number of homeless NYC children has risen by 11
C.. The number of homeless families in shelters - currently
more than 8,700 families - is the highest since November
D.. The number of homeless "adult families" (without minor
children) has risen to all-time record levels.
E.. The City moved fewer homeless families into permanent
housing this past fiscal year - 6,406 homeless families
moved to subsidized housing in FY 2006, compared to 6,772
families moved in FY 2005, a 5.4 percent decrease.
F.. More New York City families entered the shelter system
this past fiscal year - 11,082 new homeless families in FY
2006, compared to 10,616 new families in FY 2005, a 4.4
G.. In FY 2006, the City moved 5.4 percent fewer homeless
families from shelters to subsidized housing than in FY 2005
- and 9.6 percent fewer families than in FY 2004.
H.. The Bloomberg Administration now relies almost entirely
on the flawed "Housing Stability Plus" program to move
homeless families from shelter into their own homes.
I.. In only its second year, the HSP program is providing
permanent housing to 4.9 percent fewer families per month -
HSP has aided an average of 359 families/month in 2006
compared to 377 families/month in 2005.
J.. Because of the flaws in the HSP program - including 20
percent annual reductions in rental assistance, and rules
blocking families from working - many landlords refuse to
accept the subsidy.
K.. In October 2004 the Bloomberg Administration announced
that homeless families would no longer receive a priority
for scarce Federal housing vouchers and public housing
L.. In September 2006, under new rules crafted by the
Bloomberg Administration, homeless New Yorkers are no longer
able even to submit an application for Federal housing
M.. As a result, in the past year the number of homeless
families helped by Federal housing programs plunged by 80.9
N.. A 2005 analysis by the NYC Independent Budget Office
found that City spending on homelessness prevention has
remained virtually flat since FY 2001.
O.. Between FY 2005 and FY 2006, the number of new homeless
families entering the shelter system rose by 4.4 percent."
challenge facing both DHS and the Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is to reduce the number of
chronically street homeless individuals by maximizing
available resources and spearheading a plan to move these
individuals into appropriate housing with access to
social, medical and behavioral health services." (5)
Homelessness today is a crisis to our nation. The efforts
that the city of New York has been making is having a
significant impact in helping homeless people. Though there
are flaws in the city's programs, great progress has
occurred in providing shelters, food, as well as medical and
psychiatric care to needy individuals. New York City's
expenditures on emergency shelter and homeless services have
soared by 41.6 percent. During the current decade, the
shortage of affordable housing has increased the city's
homeless shelter population to an all-time record level. As
long as there are inevitable circumstances that plague its
citizens, homelessness will always be present as well as a
"persistent, unpleasant visible feature of urban life."
Works Cited Page
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