Society is an entity that is dynamic. Individuals are the most significant asset and they also exist as complex. Each society has problems that can emerge from its functioning, as it relies on synchronization with all its pieces. This paper aims to take a close look at New York City’s social issues, including affordable housing, homelessness, psychiatric problems, opioid addictions, and chronic poverty. The paper would initially take a general look at the contemporary social problems present in American society. The paper aims to take a reader inside the dark and ugly lanes of the most bustled and glitz city of New York, despite the longest economic expansion in American history. As a matter of fact, homelessness gives rise to many other social problems including drug addiction and violence that in one or the other affects the functioning of the society and its people experiences its immediate consequences.
One can find a very rich literature regarding, homelessness, mental issues, drug addictions, and persistent poverty etc. present in the American society. I would like to mention Johnathan Kozol’s book – Rachel and Her Children: Homeless families in America in context to this account. The author presents an insightful explanation of America’s homeless people. It leaves a reader awestruck for such pathetic conditions of homeless people amidst the most developed nation. This book which was published in 1988 is based on anecdotes enmeshed in facts and statistics. There are many stories mired into the same strand of homelessness. Kozol describes the grim situation of homeless people of America in an eloquent way and argues that the dysfunctional policies of the state are responsible for the plight of homelessness. The thematic question which revolves around the book is that Why are there so many people homeless in America?
Homelessness is the lack of affordable housing and the participating factors could be a family breakdown, alcoholism, drug addiction, health conditions, teen pregnancies and poverty culture but the due to the skyrocketing rents which leave one homeless and makes them underclass in the society. The escalating rents ensure condominium conversions. The homeless people of America are engulfed into many awful conditions which often take a toll on their health. Mostly, they are depressed and trapped into drug addiction which further entails the threats of homelessness. They are the people who have usually been abandoned by the family due to loss of a job.
The Martinique Hotel, government subsidized shelter for homeless, is very important to mention here because it turned out to be a place from where a multitude of problems has risen due to the malfunctioning of state policies. Martinique is one among many other shelters which accommodate homeless people and provide them food. But, the living conditions are miserable and the Govt. arbitrarily encourages the shelter homes by facilitations, instead of supporting the homeless by cutting down the rents (Phelan, and Link, Bruce, 1999). The Govt. is busy in serving the rich by incentivizing the corporate houses. Meanwhile, poverty driven people are neglected and pacified by mere shelters that too without basic amenities. These are crumbling block in the welfare of the society. There are poorest people dwelling in the shelters who cannot afford to buy food or medicines.
Kozol’s book and other investigations still hold water in the present context, where the problem of homelessness still lingers and deteriorates the children’s over all development because the homeless child is most vulnerable to LD (Lack of Development). Even in day care centers, they are not attended well because the teachers often feel these children will anyhow have to move out. There are certain programs that were meant to provide the homeless people with certain hopes but, these policies have undergone substantial change over the past few decades. For example, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 announced time constraints and job requirements to get the benefit. Kozol’s book and other sources discuss various causes of homelessness like the evidence that shows the enactment of the welfare restructuring stemmed in increased cases of homelessness among the welfare leavers; nonetheless the percentage is very less that confer that there is limited protective cover offered by the welfare reform (Loprest, 1999 and Bloom, Farrell and Fink, 2002). Also, poor mental and general health conditions, disturbed marriage and broken families etc. might generate homelessness and disturbs the social and political structure of the immediate society.
Homeless population continues to escalate due to the economic and social inequalities entrenched into the system. The complex social forces drive the people to give up their homes and live in streets and shelters to leverage off the expenses. Many sources depict the worsening situation of homeless people like one father in San Antonia who sells blood plasma to feed his children and his wife who loses her mental balance due to her husband’s loss of a job. Another example of a woman, 35, who sleeps on the Miami beaches because she lost her job due to her deteriorating health and eventually loses her house. One can infer from the different accounts of different people, mentioned by most of the sources, how the health care fails in providing assistance to the well-being of people. It is quite evident from the reports that the primary health care centers are not accessible and fruitful for the underclass and unemployed people (Quigley, Raphael, and Eugene, 2001). New health care schemes might be effective but for upper class and employed youth who are able to pay the reimbursements on time.
With time, the perception of Homelessness has changed as there are a plethora of people living and thriving on the streets and shelters of New York. They don’t mind to continue their rest of life in such circumstances. It seems overreaching for them to even think their own permanent shelter. The homelessness has induced the sense of permanency in temporary shelter dwellers. They are more acclimatized with the state provided rented accommodation. Many factors are responsible for the social problems that are more proactive than structural limitations present in the New York City. For instance, deteriorating health and general education, residential mobility, and domestic violence vitally escalates the chances of homelessness. Such situation witness apparent existence, despite there is city-level fluctuations in local health, shelter availability, and anti-loitering regulations etcetera. However, there are certain considerations that could lower the cases of homelessness that include family support, public housing, socioeconomic support to increase housing affordability etcetera, such factors lessen the frequency of homelessness by keeping the structural factors persistent.
As per recent reports, there are more vacant houses than homeless people, in the city of New York. This disparity eludes the sheer lack of economic policies crafted in the name of welfare of the society. These vacant houses could have been leased by Govt. for housing the poor and underclass. The rent which the homeless people pay in shelters could be utilized for the betterment of life. In shelter homes, the children often fall prey to sex predators who often roam around such overcrowded places. Imparting proper education could save the homeless children from drug addiction and alcoholism. The state policies, which are just catering the desires of rich, need to be little alert of the consequences of the partiality.
Bloom, Dan, Farrell, Mary, and Fink, Barbara. 2002. Welfare Time Limits. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.
Kozol, J. (1988). Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America. Crown Publishers
Phelan, Jo C., and Link, Bruce G. 1999. “Who Are ‘the Homeless’? Reconsidering the Stability and Composition of the Homeless Population,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 89, No. 9.
Quigley, Raphael, and Eugene. (2001). “Homelessness in America, Homelessness in California,” The Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 83, No. 1.
Loprest, P. J. (1999). How Families That Left Welfare Are Doing: A National Picture. The Urban Institute. Washington, DC.