There is said to have been many ways to describe and understand what exactly homelessness is. The basic understanding of homelessness is a state of being in which a person lacks the basic right of having housing. With this being said, there are several ways in which this definition can become something to branch off of and be elaborated on . An individual who lacks their own permanent housing but is living within a temporary facility such as a shelter or even group home can be categorized as homelessness. Within the state of New York City, homelessness is seen to be such a growing epidemic and continues to be a prominent social issue. In fact, it is said that homelessness in New York City as reached skyrocketing numbers since the Great Depression which occured in the 1930s. According to research, “In October of 2018, there were 63,559 homeless people, including 15,572 homeless families with 23,136 homeless children, sleeping each night in New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.”(Coalition for the homeless). Studies show that homeless is linked to many factors such as mental illness, low-paying jobs, and drug use. Studies show that 30% of all homeless individuals are current victims of at least one mental illness, and while 70% make up the population thats drug users. With all of the current budgets, statistics, and proven facts, it is extremely prevalent and obvious that homelessness is a serious matter and is something that needs to be addressed with extreme urgency.
According to the Bowery Mission, a ministry based organization that focuses on serving the homeless and hungry New Yorker population, states that “In a city of 8.5 million people, nearly 1 in every 128 New Yorkers is currently homeless. But only 1 out of every 17 of these individuals is visible to the eye.” With this being said, this shows that homelessness has no face, nor do they look a particular way. Homelessness affects individuals of all ages, all ethnicities , an cultures. When we link homelessness to historical events in the past, they link with the deinstitutionalization movement along with the single- resident occupancy housing market(Durham, 2010). The Deinstitutionalization movement was a government based policy that was said to remove mentally ill patients whom were being treated in insane asylums, out into the general community. In results of this emerg into the general community, not only were individuals going without the proper treatment, but because their mental illness served as a barrier for them to obtain housing, they became apart of the homeless population. About 200,000 of individuals who live in the New York State, whom suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are said to be homeless. The primary purpose of this entire movement of discharging these individuals into the community, was because the government was having extreme budget cuts. With this act, now individuals whom were homeless, now end up in jails and prisons. It is said that 16% of inmates were severely mentally ill. It is said that there are more than three times as much people whom suffer with mental illness in jails and prison facilities then there are in hospitals. Following the deinstitutionalization movement, with the number of psychiatric centers holding patients across the New York State decreased significantly between the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Obviously one of the major outcomes of this movement was that individuals were not receiving the proper support they needed or treatment at that. This is where the single resident occupancy units came into play. “Property tax and gentrification policies financially incentivized people who owned SRO buildings to convert SRO units into expensive cooperatives, rental-housing, and condominiums. This turn of events led to the decline of SRO housing which went on for several decades thereby limiting the access to affordable housing.” (The Balance , 2000). Which again , gave individuals no other option but to turn to the streets and become homeless.
In New York state, minorities groups in the United States experience homelessness at such higher statistics than other demographics. With this being said, African Americans and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. When linked to past history, slavery and even segregation have proven that African Americans have been denied the basics of opportunities and equal rights. With the constant battle of constant discrimination, this topic correlates with the higher rates of poverty , lack of housing , being in prison system, and lastly lack of health care. As history repeats itself, African American households are more likely to experience higher rates of poverty when compared to white new yorkers. Because blacks are more likely to live in areas of high poverty, these means that these particular areas have limited financial and economic opportunities, lack of community resources, and higher poor educational systems. African Americans within history have been proven to have go work ten times harder due to racism within society, but it makes it even more difficult for them to be successful and beat the odds when they have some many barriers and obstacles in their way. According to studies done by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development , “ people of color were often shown fewer rental units, offered higher rents, and denied more leases than Whites”.
Rents and minimal wage growth within NY have put a huge weight on households with a limited amount of resources. 60% of New Yorkers say they don’t have enough emergency savings to cover at least 3 months worth of expenses such as food and rent. And nearly 20% of New York City residents already live below the poverty line (earning less than $24,300 for a family of four). With that being said, trying to create a system in which wages are increased to help families and individuals maintain a more stable financial control over their life expenses including rent can potentially help decrease the numbers of homeless individuals in New York. Studies have shown that one of the main causes of homelessness especially when it comes to families, is the lack of affordable housing. So another proposal would be to work on the current affordable housing policies within New York and implement new strategies to increase individuals/families ability to have a home.
An increase in wages, as well as the city seeking a more stabilized population of homeless individuals by creating new shelters and providing more resources to help individuals not only gain housing but as well as grow independence so that they can maintain a living. Implementing systems such as rental aid for individuals who may be need the help, can provide temporary financial assistance as well as encourage those to know that this aid is only for a limited time. This can provide the needed motivation and again help families and individuals gain that sense of independence knowing they’re working to have a better life to one day be able to provide for themselves. Also to help these individuals gain work experience, it is imperative that the government create budgets to provide resources that focus on low-skilled individuals who maybe lack prior education history, gain the basic skills and more, to help them get on their feet and work . This gives New Yorkers the ability to again work for their own, and feel that they’re not solely depending on the state to get them through this hardship. Of Course individuals need to fit into certain criteria in order to be selected for programs as such, but creating this criterias can motivate individuals to do right, align themselves on a better path, and hopefully gain their deserved independence.
Overall when we look at America as a whole collective, we possess enormous amounts of riches. With this being said, America let alone New York State has the ability to bring an end to this growing epidemic. Not only should budgets to decrease homelessness be implemented, but also to provide community based resources that focus on helping individuals stray away from even becoming apart of the statistics. We see that those whom are unemployed, those who own homes that are in foreclosure, those whom are in and out of the prison system , and youth whom are in the foster system ; so focusing on these groups and providing not only guidance and resources that can educate these people on taking proper steps , can help on the path to decreasing these numbers.
It is obvious that homelessness is something that will not be abolished overnight. However with much dedicated time, effort, this social welfare issue can decrease enormously . If proposals discussed earlier, along with other programs become implemented, homelessness can decrease drastically. For individuals from NewYork who are homeless with no sort of steady income, it is exptremely imperative that the state provides these individuals with decent housing . At the end of the day, having a home is a human basic right, and no one should be subjected to terrible living conditions. It is important that New York authorities become extremely vigilant when evaluating people who do receive services such as shelters. Many people try to manipulate the system, while others who need the actual system are losing out on the opportunities to recieve the help they need. More focus is needed on those in a real sense, cannot afford housing on an independent level. Strict policies that focus on those whom are in extreme need of assitance can hep with this growing issue in New York State.