With the holiday season upon us, all of a sudden we are reminded of those in need, specifically the homeless. Homelessness exists 365 days a year. Working at The Partnership for the Homeless for the past few months has reinforced those things for which I am thankful. I am thankful for the education I had access to which helped me get to where I am today. I am thankful for the job I have which allows me to affect change everyday while providing me with an income and health insurance. And, most highlighted by my work experience, I am thankful for the roof I have over my head each night, and the comfort I get from knowing that I have a safe and secure place to sleep.
Unfortunately, too many Americans, and New Yorkers specifically, do not have that comfort. In the US there are approximately 3.5 million homeless people. Monday night, November 20th, 2006, 34,595 individuals were sheltered by the city. 13,859 were children. This number does not include the 3,843 unsheltered individuals the city estimates live on the street. It also does not include the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in substandard, dangerous or inadequate living conditions, doubled and tripled up.
There are a myriad of reasons an individual becomes homeless, but there are some irrefutable structural realities that turn a tough situation into a crisis. Homelessness is a problem that we as a city and a nation have the know-how and the resources to overcome if we made a serious commitment to do so. We need policies that increase access to education at all levels, quality healthcare for all, living wage jobs and incomes for those who are unable to work and finally, affordable housing for all New Yorkers, including those with extremely low incomes. These policy areas are not just for homeless New Yorkers, or those who find themselves in the throws of poverty, but for all New Yorkers. If we take on these structural issues together, and work for permanent solutions beyond shelter, we will see a New York, and a United States of America, that is really by and for the people.
To that end, among other initiatives, The Partnership recently embarked on its third annual Voter Registration and Empowerment Drive where we coordinated voter registration and education workshops at over 40 homeless shelters throughout the city and GOTV efforts at nearly 60 shelters to increase the electoral base to truly represent all New Yorkers. So, while some political parties were exploiting the homeless for political gain we in New York in cooperation with the National Low Income Housing Coalition's Voterization Project, were working toward expanding the educated voting base. To read more about our drive click here and here .
New York will continue to find itself in the tragic situation it is each night until we have policy, political engagement and public education focusing on real, long term solutions to poverty. Let us be thankful for the roof we have over our heads and work toward ensuring that everyone can be thankful for that each and every day.
For more about the work of The Partnership for the Homeless please visit our website at www.partnershipforthehomeless.org.
Elana Shneyer: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 3:58 PM, Nov 22, 2006 in Democracy | Economy | Education | Employment | Governmental Reform | Health Care | Housing | New York | Progressive Agenda | Voting Rights
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