Yesterday I joined the mayor and two of the Homeless Committee members and looked over the IBID ditch bank that runs through their neighborhood behind their houses. The Homeless travel on it and because of the elevated nature of the banks peer into their backyards and windows. We observed one inhabited homeless shelter in the IBID culvert going under the roadway. The mayor was able to offer some measures that would impede its use as a thoroughfare. No trespassing signs by EBID are already posted.
I met with Henry Young at the Gospel Rescue Mission for his assessment on the homeless situation and also with one of the former directors of the Oak Street veterans housing in Mesilla Park.
At our CCIA meeting NYC was brought up. My son has been a 20 year resident so I asked him for his assessment which is as follows:
Honestly I’m not sure if NY has progressed or digressed. Since the pandemic the subways have been teaming with homeless people. There has been an uptick of violence in the subways lately. They seem too often involve mentally ill homeless people.
Homelessness is definitely a huge issue in NYC in general. From my understanding is usually people with severe trauma / mental illness / addiction. The cycle is incredibly difficult to break. No one wants to be in the shelters because they are filled with other mentally Ill and violent people. People take advantage of you, steal your stuff. So they sleep on the streets. But then how to get a job? No address, no phone, no shower. It’s a cycle. There is also a massive affordable housing shortage in NYC.
I’ve read a book on people who live in the tunnels called The Mole People. It was sad but they preferred it to being vulnerable above ground. Recently a man was arrested for targeting homeless people while sleeping in NYC and DC. Shooting 4, killing two. The last mayor bought out hotels during the pandemic for housing. This worked for awhile but not a long term solution.
My takeaway from everything I’ve learned living here, meeting homeless people and listening to local public radio is that it’s really a huge mental health and addiction problem which is rarely as simple as pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps or arresting people (or giving them bus tickets out of town, which was once done).
We’ll see how our new mayor deals with it. I’ll be curious what you learn in your experience. It’s critical to listen and get insight from people who were able to break the cycle. I cannot imagine having to live on the streets and having no loved ones to call upon for help. Or worse yet, a mom and her kids.
There is a false belief that some Cities have solved or been able to adequately rectify the homeless problem but it always turns out that they offer better programs which in essence just attracts more to come. Seattle and Austin are two that come to mind.
A good book on this, which the title says it all, is “When Helping Hurts”.
There is no simple answer to this highly complex problem but I feel that by becoming more knowledgeable on both sides of the equation we may be able to see some path (which actually is many paths ) we can take.