‘We need to abandon once and for every the idea the homelessness is a choice, and that civilization are not in shelters since they don’t know better. The problem is castle do and also that’s why they are choosing to sleep on subways and sidewalks.’

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

City outreach employees at the second Avenue subway station in 2016.

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New York City has actually a homelessness problem, but it’s not what you think. Yes, there have been countless homeless persons in new York City shelters and in the streets and subways for decades. Yes, the spending plan for the room of Homeless Services has risen exponentially over the years. Yes, COVID-19 slamming into the city almost one year earlier has only exacerbated the problem, v the closeup of the door of congregate shelters, libraries, subways and also coffee shops (not to point out putting thousands of world out the work and on the sheet of eviction).Yet for every one of these really real issues, the bigger trouble lurking just beneath the surface ar is that together a society, us still haven’t established that human being don’t select to sleep outside; they choose not come sleep in shelters. The bigger problem is a an essential misunderstanding around what reasons homelessness and also how the civilization who experience it deserve every chance that we have the right to offer to assist them access housing, not force them into shelters.Last week, a keen observer noticed the the benches that formerly dotted the landscape of a subway communication in NYC had actually mysteriously vanished. This individual required to Twitter to ask why and also tagged the official account for subway news and updates:
NYCTSubway. In a surprising moment of honesty who tasked with communicating on their behalfreplied, “Benches were removed from train station to stop the homeless from resting on them.” This promptly developed a firestorm in the Twitterverse, and the an answer was quickly deleted. MTA public official later proclaimed that the benches at the station have actually been returned, claiming castle were removed so they might be “deep cleaned.”

The mindset that leader the MTA to eliminate benches so that homeless people won’t have warm, dry areas to rest is no new. Yet it is backwards. This attitude is predicated ~ above the systemic lie that homelessness exists due to the fact that people select to reject services. The id is that if society makes homelessness together intolerable together possible, these individuals will see the error of your ways and ultimately expropriate the choices thegovernmentprovides. The civilization who perpetuate this belief system are persuaded this technique is “humane” because they it seems to be ~ to believe the vast bulk of those that sleep on these benches space incapable of making rational decisions. These leaders would call removing the benches “tough love.”

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But it’s impossible to assume with any kind of consistency that world sleeping in subway stations room both i can not qualify of making rational decisions and also capable the being persuaded to come inside since of the discomfort forced upon them through “hostile architecture” and also criminalization. Punishing human being in poor so the they will certainly be compelled to “choose” not to be impoverished is insane. Instead of trying to boost the misery of miserable people, we should shot offering options that to decrease misery, build trust, and also improve people’s lives.

Here are several ideas:

Put the benches back. Though the MTA said it has actually returned the benches at the 23rd Street terminal that sparked the early stage Twitter debate, it should do the same at any type of other subway stations where benches may have actually been removed. This little gesture would demonstrate a desire on the part of city leadership to empathize through those in the spare part of society who are frequently treated prefer a difficulty to be solved rather of a citizen to be helped.Open the subways in ~ night. When COVID-19 slammed into new York City, the instance was made that the subways required to be closed to be cleaned. It appears logical, other than for the truth that the timing to be remarkably close come a blitz the news stories around complaints around homeless riders making life challenging for crucial workers. The MTA repeatedly and rightfully cases they room not fitted to duty as an alternate to the sanctuary system. But what if there was a combination strategy to both clean and also operate particular trains throughout the winter month that permitted those suffering homelessness to receive emergency supplies and also connect v outreach teams that might get them into stabilization beds?Give the city contracted outreach groups the flexibility to offer winter clothing, food, and also bottled water come those they engage in the street. While access to affordable housing continues to lag behind the number of people that actually need it, offering compassionate relief v tangible acts of business does nothing but aid establish relationships and also build trust.

We have to abandon once and for every the idea the homelessness is a choice, and also that world are no in shelters due to the fact that they don’t know better. The difficulty is castle do and that’s why they are picking to sleep on subways and also sidewalks. Our difficulty is that together a society we tho seem to think that homeless folks are not really people who are worthy of ours consideration and respect. Since as lengthy as we treat homelessness together a symptom of negative judgment, us will never ever actually resolve the real difficulty or appreciate the trauma that our homeless next-door neighbors experience simply to survive.

Josiah Haken is one activist and also practitioner who helps organizations, confidence communities, and individuals cultivate spaces wherein those who experience homelessness are cared for with dignity and intentionality. That is the vice chairman of outreach operations at NYC Relief and has to be helping human being get off the street because that over 10 years.

6 thoughts on “Opinion: new York City has a Homelessness Problem—But it’s not What you Think”

Dale thomas on February 11, 2021 at 11:20 afternoon said:

Very great article!

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