What shocked us about this article was one simple question: Why is Tonya Lewis’s family homeless? Homeless people are “supposed” to be, as the article so elegantly writes, “AIDS patients or men who slept on church steps,” not single mothers with jobs. If a woman can hold down a job, send her children to school, try her best to create normative family living and still be homeless, something is wrong with the society in which she lives.
One of the goals that Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 was to “create homes for almost a million more New Yorkers while making housing and neighborhoods more affordable and sustainable.” The plan continued to explain the importance of diversity in each neighborhood and the role the transit systems play. As enticing as this may sound, to what extent could NYC meet those goals?
A prominent problem in our society is that New Yorkers run on an independent daily routine. Through the bustling commute and financial crisis, homeless families become unnoticeable after they leave their shelters. Even with the number of trains and buses New York has, the numbers of connections are endless and needless to say, very time-consuming. For families like Ms. Lewis, the transit system was perhaps the only place where they aren’t a burden to the city. But because they so easily blend in, nobody notices them, nobody even cares.
Another problem with our society are the priorities of politicians and representatives of New York. Ambitiously, Bloomberg aimed “to reduce homelessness by two-thirds by five years.” He suggested putting even more restrictions on who could enter the system and no longer giving priority to homeless families for public housing. In addition to a number of budget cuts, the city is forced to cut back on some benefits and for people like Ms. Lewis, losing aid from the government meant losing one’s home.
Who put these people in a homeless shelter and who is keeping them there? Did they do it to themselves, having simply lost all hope of getting back on their feet? Or was it city officials? State budget cuts? Wall Street and the financial crisis that has squeezed so many people? The agendas of “The Coalition for the Homeless”? Mayor Bloomberg and his ambitious plans to make his city look good? The follow-up and more important question is: who is here to help these families?