The anti-homeless ways of New York City

New York's homeless left out in the cold | Homelessness News | Al Jazeera

New York City is home to 380,000 millionaires and 65 billionaires. On the other side of the spectrum, 1 in 106 is considered homeless in New York City. Every night nearly 4,000 sleep on the street, in the subway system, or in public spaces. The city may be a playground to the rich and spontaneous but it is no friend to our unhoused neighbors. 

Hostile architecture, or its true name “anti-homeless architecture” can be displayed as metal studs on flower beds or armrests on benches. Anti-homeless architecture is littered across New York City, but if you have a roof over your head you probably won’t notice. 

There are 500 privately owned public spaces in New York City. Private-owned public spaces are required to be open to the public. In 2017, the New York City comp controller at the time found that more than half of the buildings were in violation of this rule. Some spaces like the Plaza have taken measures to remove their anti-homeless architecture, but some spaces make it very clear they don’t want people “hanging out.” 

2,400 people use the MTA subway system to sleep in every night. Every person in New York City has a right to sleep in a shelter, but some unhoused neighbors choose to sleep in the subway system. A survey found that most prefer the A or E line because they run all night. Unhoused neighbors choose the subway over shelters for various amounts of reasons. The top three reasons are experiences of violence, no privacy, or far away from their community. With this in mind, applying and qualifying for sheltered living can take up to 3 months. 

New York City is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Should it be the cities responsibility to help care for the less fortunate population of New York City? Does hostile architecture really deserve to be used in the city? Is it fair to say that sheltered housing is available when the process to qualify can take 3 months? Unhoused neighbors are unlucky enough, does the city have to make it harder on them?

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