[CONTENT NOTE: homelessness, including image of a homeless person.]
It’s a dreary, snowy day in NYC. Not the fun kind of snow that hushes the city in a thick blanket of otherworldly white (and, ideally, melts overnight without a trace). This is a dismal snow, dark flurries of tiny wet flakes that liquefy upon reaching the ground.
But! Yesterday was glorious. It’s days like these that seem to electrify the city (or maybe the city-dwellers?), demanding to be witnessed in all of their vivid splendor and grotesquery. I had appointments and errands on my morning schedule, followed by a late lunch with a dear friend visiting from out of town. This is what I saw.
Graffiti: two pink hearts and “#NOT MY PRESIDENT! EVER” in neon green
Downtown 1 train entrance on Christopher St.
Sidewalk in pink, white and blue chalk letters: “FIGHT trump EVERY DAY”
10th and Hudson Sts.
Homeless person sleeping, with bags in tow
Uptown 1 train
I stuffed a few dollars under his or her sleeve before I got off the train at 28th St, and walked the rest of the way to my destination.
I thought about the fact that “in recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” One cannot lay soaring populations of homeless people in the US at the feet of our 45th president. That falls squarely on the shoulders of neoliberalism—i.e. both major political parties.
The thing is, the problem of homelessness has one very simple and cost-effective solution: homes.
“You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around…giving people supportive housing cost the system about half as much as leaving the homeless to live on the street.”
Of course in the warped minds of conservatives, the illustrious Free Market™ is not simply an economic system but also a moral arbiter. Thus, if you are homeless, you deserve to be so. Q.E.D. And somehow this condemnation applies to the 45,000 children who were homeless in 2016 in New York City alone.
Well I have a few condemnations of my own. I condemn a society that produces and tolerates more than half a million homeless men, women and children, and holds them personally responsible for their condition. I condemn a society that upholds leaders who endorse that system. And I condemn anyone who justifies, supports and perpetuates policies where cruelty is a feature not a bug, and compassion and common sense the reverse.
I know we can do better. I also know that we probably won’t.