HOMELESS IN MANHATTAN
It’s often been said that many of us are only one or two paychecks away from being homeless and that’s very clear in GFC-stricken USA.
Millions of people are unemployed, rents are high and even people with jobs can no longer afford to make ends meet.
In the past, many of these people would have turned to their family for help, but now, their family members may be homeless too. This report in the Huffington Postsuggests the problem is about to get much worse.
The official statistics for New York City are sobering.
The census taken on December 9, 2011, records 23,061 adults and 16,726 children were homeless. There are many people who weren’t counted.
I’ve been volunteering for a homeless shelter in Manhattan for the past couple of months.
We work in pairs. If one of us fails to turn up, the shelter closes for the night and our guests have nowhere to sleep. I do feel the responsibility.
The term ‘shelter’ is a bit of a misnomer. It is a church hall in which we set up cots and heat and serve a meal prepared by another volunteer and brought in from home. The hall is clean enough but there is no shower, little heat and many mice. We provide a weekly change of sheets and a towel and a meal.
Only a street away my own family sleeps in heated comfort.
It is so little, yet in all the years I have worked in human service jobs I have never received so much appreciation.
Our guests thank us excessively for everything. And they are so concerned for the comfort of us volunteers.
They are keen to share their meal with us. They worry that we won’t be comfortable and won’t have privacy because we sleep in the same room and on the same cots as they do. It is only when I explain that several centuries ago I had been in the army reserve they are satisfied I will be ok.
They need to give to us too so they can feel worthwhile.
Our group are all women. The expected mix of sinners and saints you find in any group. Some are well, others ill. Some quiet, others bolshie. Only one was drunk last night but we chose to ignore that (although it is against the rules) as sending her away meant she would be outdoors all night.
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