Why can't you just get a job?
Well that is a difficult question to answer. But I will answer it with a question: What is the first thing you need to get a job?
According the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “The term "homeless" or "homeless individual or homeless person" includes-- (1) an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and (2) an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is: A) supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill); B) a institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings.” (Source)
If you live in NYC or have ever been here you have seen this problem of homelessness everywhere. The parks, the subways, busses. Grand Central and Time Square. The homeless seem to be everywhere. But why can’t they work and save up to get a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence?” This is simply because they can’t work if they don’t have a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” No address, no job.
This pervasive problem seems nearly impossible to fix. Quite simply getting out of a homeless situation is very difficult.
People who are homeless and at risk of homelessness tend to be very similar to you or me. They are working in regular jobs and living paycheck to paycheck. And then a family member needs help and they are out of money. They borrow money and don't pay it back. They are people who are working through an addiction and think they can work through it and then falter. They are living in an abusive relationship and then leave with nowhere else to turn. They are mentally ill and no one is able or willing to help them.
Once on the street, once they are ignored, invisible and abused, individuals can feel as if they are forgotten by society. That is enough to make anyone "crazy."
But what can we do? Help individuals on the street? Yes. Try to fix the system? Yes. But really will we ever see any change? Unfortunately, no. A shunda.
Jews are taught to take care of the stranger in our mist. Perhaps this stranger is also someone we see every day on the corner of our block. Say hello, treat these individuals with respect. But take action. If you are looking to do something here are some Jewish Orgs that run shelters and soup kitchens. I am sure there are more. If I missed your organization and what you do, please put it in the comments and I will repost.
HUC Soup Kitchen
Abraham Residence I and II of the New York Metropolitan Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty
Congregation Ansche Chesed
Congregation B'Nai Jeshurun
Congregation Rodeph Sholom
Brooklyn Heights Synagogue
Soup Kitchen at the Chelsea Shul (hat tip DK)
Facts about Homelessness in NYC