Discussing the Myths and Realities of Homelessness in NYC
by Natasha Bynum, CCARNY Student Advocacy & Volunteer Projects Coordinator
On Wednesday, October 15th, Craig Mayes from NYC Rescue Mission came to Pace to discuss homelessness in New York City for a Common Hour Conversation. He explained how the NYC Rescue Mission was founded, how it has evolved, and the services they provide. He also examined reasons most people become homeless, and the myths about homeless people across the nation.
After working in a homeless shelter for two years in a city neighboring my hometown of New Paltz, I was able to put faces to the statistics he was mentioning. Rather than ignoring our fellow New Yorkers, it is important to help them in any way we can. The first way to do that is to be informed. The following are some crucial facts that Craig Mayes brought to light during the discussion.
- Homeless people are lazy.
Reality: Contrary to popular belief, most homeless people are NOT lazy, and they DO want jobs and a stable place to live. A large portion of these people suffer from mental illness, addictions, or are momentarily down on their luck whether it be the loss of a job, an injury, or divorce.
- Homeless people are dangerous.
Reality: It is a lot more common that homeless people are the victims of abuse rather than the perpetrators. There have been more cases of homeless people being harassed or physically abused by passers-by than cases of homeless people becoming aggressive with strangers.
- All homeless people are using the money you give them for drugs.
Reality: Although this is not false in every case, it is easy to tell who is begging for food or clothes and who is begging for money to feed their addictions. If you encounter a homeless person on the street begging for money, you can offer to safely buy them food or clothing instead. If they refuse the meal or clothes, then it is likely that that is not what they will use the money for.
There are a number of things you can do to get involved. To volunteer at the NYC Rescue Mission, donate goods, or order Outreach Cards that you can hand out to people in need, please visit the websites below: