Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Homelessness in and around the City – Poverty in NYC

There are 744,000 homeless in US. And there is a question you are just dying to ask.

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


DK said...

Please note that there is a kosher soup kitchen run at the Chelsea Shul. There is a Jewish homeless problem in NY, as there is and I have been told personally by homeless Jews that it is not safe for Jews in the shelter system, including shelters under Jewish auspices.

DK said...

"Quite simply getting out of a homeless is very difficult."

It's almost impossible, as people are not allowed to earn at all when in the shelter system. The amount of cash needed in one fell swoop to be able to exit homeless is ominous, and only occurs with inheritance or the like.

This needs to be changed, and there needs to be gradations of shelters, with co-payments, etc.

The bigger mitzvah is not just to give people a shelter, but if possible (and for some, it is possible) to get them out of homelessness.

But the section eight system does not seek to end the cycle of dependency, but rather, promotes it, as we know all too well.

Liberal Jew said...

But the section eight system does not seek to end the cycle of dependency, but rather, promotes it, as we know all too well.

“Cycle of dependency” is a such a right wing piece of propaganda. Section 8 allows people to save money. Saving money allows people to get out of the system. But we all need to figure out how to get folks out of the “cycle.”

Brenne said...

I am a young, vibrant, Jewish middle-aged woman who is currently homeless. I contacted many Jewish agencies in the NYC area hoping to find temporary assistance. Unfortunately, even Chabad stated that they could not help me, nor direct me. I have two advanced degrees in art and Jewish history, yet perhaps due to the lack of demand, I have been unemployed since December. Last month I qualified for Food Stamps and will probably receive Medicaid sometime next month, but these government programs hardly cover the cost of even a very modest apartment. If anyone reading this posting can point me in the right direction, please contact me. Secondly, once I am on my feet again, I plan on advocating for the Jewish homeless and needy, so anyone else interested in getting involved in such an endeavor, I welcome your input.