Homelessness and Public Space

Homeless people at a public park

Homelessness has long been an issue in NYC and with the criminalization of homelessness these people are left stranded. Bans on camping in public increased 60% from 2011 to 2014, bans on loitering in public are up 35%, bans on begging in public went up 25% and bans on sleeping in public had no change (No Safe Place). Meanwhile the government plans huge sports facility projects for professional teams, instead of helping the citizens of NYC who are in need of it. Because of all these bans there is a higher number of these homeless people moving underground, into the subways, and other places out of site. According to Ian Frazier in his article titled ‘A Hidden City’, “For baseball games, Yankee Stadium seats 50,287. If all the homeless people who now live in New York City used the stadium for a gathering, several thousand would have to stand.” This is an absurd statistic in my opinion.

Another issue is that there aren’t enough shelters, or even shelters with beds. There should be some amount of government funds in my opinion that help out the homeless. Yes, I know those funds would be coming out of our pocket but not all homeless people are the stereotype druggies or low-lives. There are children who are homeless. Single parents. People who just completely struck out on luck. As a human I feel its necessary that we do everything to help each other out. According to Frazier, “under Bloomberg’s 12 years the number of homeless families went up seventy three percent.” He also states that one child out of every hundred is homeless in the city.

It doesn’t make sense to me why homeless people would be criminally charged for living on the streets, when they have no other choice. There should be better programs available to get these people off the streets and into shelters. Instead of trying to fix the problem of homelessness I feel as though the government is just sliding by without any resolve in sight. Not only in NYC is homelessness an issue which I’ve first hand experienced but also, while I was in LA over spring break I noticed a huge number of homeless people in the city. It seemed as though they weren’t being bothered by the police much as I remember seeing rows of tents.

I myself do not have the answer to solve homelessness though I wish I did, but public space doesn’t feel as public as it once did. With laws like those in place now there are more and more restrictions to what you can do in public spaces.

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  1. This definitely goes back to the idea of poverty as a pathology. In an attempt to clean up the image of the city, authorities are willing to displace and discriminate against homeless people. A possible explanation could be that the government does not want to fund the homeless as they could be “free loaders” and they only want to put money into projects they know will attract people who they can make a profit from. I think that this way of thinking is what contributes to the privitization and militarization of space since stereotypical poor people and minorities are the ones being excluded. This shows that the morals and values of the city have changed for the worse as our own citizens are ostracized while tourists are praised, not for their character, but for their wealth.

  2. I agree with your point that the government should move some of the cost from the sport, which is much a wants to the needs (shelters) for their safty and social well being. Soicety needs changes in order to keep homeless people safe. From the other hands, the idea of pathology also is one of the reasons that happen on homeless people. Some of them are young and they still can find a job for living, but they are not willing to do so because of lazyness. Moreover, most of homeless people have their home I believe, but they get treat badly at home that they think outside is better for them. Another point is that some of the homeless people ask people for money instead of food. and use money to buy cigarette or something else is not healthy for them. So, there is also poverty as a pathology in the cause of homless people.

  3. You are right, it would be nice to provide more shelters and homes for homeless people but the simple way government works makes it almost impossible. The only way city officials “help” towards homelessness is by moving it or shifting it somewhere else. They don’t give actual solutions but instead they hide it, by putting ridiculous bans and fines for people using public space, which specifically is for everyone, its for public use. The worst part about this issue is that common people like us that see the problem in it can’t do anything about it, because it is not in our hands, its on the government and the way they distribute public funding.

  4. Vahe, I think you explained very well the very issues that arise when considering aid for the homeless. I too think it is unfair that they do not receive the aid that they do, yet at the same time, most of the homeless people I have encountered are the exact people the government uses as a scapegoat to refuse spending money on (a.k.a the creeps and the addicts), and rarely the families or individuals that would use the help the way it was intended. In addition, as much as I feel bad for these families that have to live in these conditions and want to help them, I have no confidence that those families are going to get the aid they deserve just based on government track record. It does a poor job adequately distributing aid as it is. Who knows how they would distribute it to thre the homeless? I too wish I had the answer to homelessness because I feel everyone deserves a chance at a comfortable, successful life. And I believe there is no offense to sitting at the side of a street when you literally have no other place to go. Everywhere else they are uninvited or kicked out, so where are they to go but the streets?

  5. When you said “because of all these bans there is a higher number of these homeless people moving underground, into the subways” it reminded me of a documentary I saw called ‘Dark Days’ where they showed exactly how the homeless really do occupy the space underneath our feet and it’s a sad reality for too many people. They end up being exposed to the fires that happen all the time in the subway, dirt, grime and just unsafe conditions overall. It’s a shame that in NYC, a city in my opinion filled with money that these people have to resort to such disgusting methods of life. You mentioned that the government should focus more of their funds on helping the homeless and I agree with you wholeheartedly. It absolutely is the humanly thing to do. The laws that are in place, I feel are only there to criminalize the homeless which is ridiculous to me. They’re just in a lose/lose situation which needs to be fixed especially in this city.

  6. I agree that there should be programs that help them but rather than creating more shelters probably there should be programs that help them get on track trying to find jobs that do not require many skills. I believe that the reason that people or government tend to avoid this issue is due to poverty as pathology that is their way of thinking that goes them into the streets. It is amazing the example that you give about the stadium capacity that shows the number of people that are going through this situation.

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