On April 6th, 2021, citizen journalism and deliberation at Pace University met to discuss the important issue of homelessness in New York City. The discussion was supposed to be focused around New York City, but quickly shifted to the growing homeless epidemic around the country. During the discussion we talked about “Tent Town” in Los Angeles, California and in Austin, Texas. The use of tents is supposed to offset the building of actual homeless shelters. We also discussed the homelessness right underneath our noses at Pace University. One of the students talked about how she had helped homeless students and let them sleep in her dorm. Another student opened up about their experience with homelessness. They explained that a friend saved them from homelessness by loaning them money. I reminded the class that the American dream has skewed our view on money and that most of the population is closer to homelessness then they are to being a millionaire.
My favorite take from the discussion was a story about an encounter a student had on the subway. A homeless person was asking for directions to city hall because they could not remember their name. The student then spewed about how homelessness can be so dehumanizing. People ignore you and don’t even look at you because they don’t see you as a part of society. Not only is being homeless physically taxing, but mentally exhausting. People lose all sense of self worth. A common argument for homelessness is go out and find a job, but people fail to realize that homelessness can lead to a string of mental illnesses that need to be treated first. Throwing someone back into the fibers of society after being abused by it takes time. The discussion turned to mental health after this point was brought up. America’s view on mental health is ancient and unaccommodating. Mental health has to be considered as important, if not more important than physical health.
Homelessness has been increasing due to the pandemic. Homelessness is something America refuses to acknowledge because it goes against its capitalist agenda. The more we try to ignore homelessness the worse it will get. Next time you see a unhoused neighbor remember to give them a smile or a dollar; realize they are human too.