Homelessness, New York City
One funny thing I have to mention were the reactions we received when we cleaned up after ourselves in smaller restaurants. In particular, was the first night we were in New York and we stopped at Pizza Fina. Once we finished eating, we gathered up our things onto a tray and emptied them into the garbage, then handed the tray to the owner standing behind the counter. His eyes were HUGE; he said "I wish all my customers were like you and cleaned up after themselves." and I just replied that I figured they were so busy making great pizza they didn't have a chance to clean up after everyone. Then I told him we're from the midwest and that's just what we do! This happened again at La Bergamote, the lady who waited on us told us we didn't need to do that because that's what she's paid to do. I wondered if maybe she thought we wouldn't leave a tip (we did, of course) but I explained to her that this is what we're used to at home. Thankfully, she didn’t seem the least bit put out by this suggestion.
For someone not raised in a city, the unfortunate homeless situation in cities like New York and San Francisco can be overwhelming. When I first moved to New York, I was depressed by my walk to school. I just couldn't believe that all these people were just abandoned on the street.
In New York, it is common for beggars to do things in order to get you to give them money, either by giving you something, like a sticker, or doing something for you, like holding the door open to a bank ATM. This is very in-your-face, and can be daunting. There are some things that I learned that can help you deal.
* Is it OK to give these people money? I don't buy into the whole "He's just going to spend it on booze!" argument. I remember a character on Sports Night saying that he HOPED they spent it on booze - $1 was not going to change someone's life, and their life sucks. So yes, it is OK.
* Do I have to give these people money? No. I made a decision not to give any beggars money, but instead to donate large sums of money to good homeless shelters, through my employer, so it was matched. There is a shelter on Lafayette near Chinatown that is very effective. This made me feel stronger about saying no.
Keep in mind, Chris Rock was right. If a homeless person has a funny sign, he hasn't been homeless very long. There used to be a guy who hung our near NYU with a sign that said "Tuition fund." People thought he was so clever.
I hope I haven't offended anyone. This is something not many people talk about.
I hadn't seen this before my last trip oversea's and came across it in more than one country. Homeless people with animals begging for their food. This is something I am happy to support even on a backpackers budget. Im sure most of the money goes to the owners, but these animals were well fed and always had food everyday I went past so I was happy to give a few dollars! Alternatively you can always give animal food, Im sure it would be appreciated.
Because the only other place in the USA I had been to was Florida, where everyone is overly friendly and constantly greets you with "hello, how are you today?" and leaves you with "have a nice day!" it gave me the impression that America was full of extremely forthcoming and welcoming people (which it is). However, in New York I was quite surprised by some people's lack of hospitality. At the airport in particular the staff were quite blunt and unfriendly (though understandably - this wasn't even 2 years after the 9/11 attacks). Also, some of the locals were a little rude. In particular, I remember a man selling hotdogs who complained to a friend of mine simply because he used the term "tomato sauce" instead of "ketchup."
Still, these are in the minority and most New Yorkers are very welcoming. Besides, I sometimes prefer more of a frank hard-edgeness to locals' responses as opposed to blantant fakeness expressed by some individuals who want to give a false impression of what their nation is like.
New York, like any major city, has its problems, and homelessness is becoming an increasingly difficult problem to handle. There's an extensive shelter system, but New York is in a painful impasse right now, as the shelters are bursting with a record 40.000 homeless adults and children... this figure may not be entirely correct, as attempting to track street homeless in the outer boroughs poses different challenges than in Manhattan - Staten Island, for example, has tent camps in wooded areas. Nevertheless, more than 9,000 families are in need of shelter each night, an increase of almost 50 percent since 2001.
A rare health study of homeless children shows that about half of those entering the New York City shelter system have asthma, a finding that underscores the increased health risk to the most vulnerable population and the challenges faced by those who serve them.
Rather than to focus on crisis management, i.e. on how to deal with who shows up that night, the city council feels it's time to look at the causes and see if they can't prevent people from showing up at all.
The Interagency's Council on Homelessness has the goal of ending the problem nationwide in a decade, in order to reach that goal the $244 million budget needs to be doubled and spent more wisely, toward supportive housing, rental assistance and permanent community.
The Bloomberg administration's new policies have included trying to get people out of shelters and into apartments, putting millions of dollars into prevention programs, and seeking to end the litigation concerning the city office where homeless families enter the shelter system. Those steps and others are winning cautious praise from experts and advocates on homelessness, who see in them a chance to reshape the approach to a problem that has proven vexing.
Do not stare at homeless, crazy and/or weird people. If you have some change, drop it into their cup if you wish but keep walking while doing so. Don't dig around for change as it puts you in a precarious position since you don't know who is around watching and their mental state. Also, be careful when crossing the street. Do not think a car will stop for you. They most likely won't and you will end up as roadkill.
SOME UNSPOKEN RULES:
*Don't stare at people unless you know them, it could get you in trouble fast!
*Dont give money to pan-handlers in the train, only out of towners do, later we see them buying booze and drugs on the streets and it makes them come back for more.
*When using the train(subway) please let people out before you try to get a seat, the sooner they come out the faster we can all roll in, and for crying out loud stay to the right when going up or down on the stairways!
*If you're lost, please! just ask for directions and stop musing at the train map behind the guy sitting in front of it!
*In the train(Subway) Uptown means That if you're going towards the direction where streets numbers get higher as you go then that's going uptown, even if it means a couple of blocks, if you are in brooklyn it means the same plus going to manhattan if it says so.(Uptown and Manhattan)
*In The train (Subway) Downtown means
that if the direction you're travelling towards to, the street numbers keep going down then you're going downtown baby!, unless you are in the bronx which means manhattan.
*Spanish Harlem(El Barrio) is from 86st to 125st,(Intercuts with Whole Harlem) and from 1st Ave to Madison Ave.
*Harlem is from 110st to 150st and from The Harlem River Drive to The Henry Hudson Parkway.
*If you are white, and naive stay close to midtown and between 86st and down, some 'hoods in downTown are kind of rough but there're more cops there, and you can visit 125st on the double deckers(Bus Tour).
*If you're black or fair coloured then you can venture out to the 'burbs, don't dress like tourists(shorts and funny hats with cameras hanging on the necks).
People are aggressive here, but are probably more mellow than you think. Most people are just afraid that you are a psycho/beggar if you approach them, but I'll guarantee that most will give good directions and even strike a conversation with you (as long as your polite and decently dressed). NYC is also much less segregated economically or racially than other cities in the US, so I think its reputation is worse than its reality.
It IS a big city though, so keep your guard up--be careful of strangers you meet, even 'normal' looking ones, and don't go home with people you meet in clubs or bars. Women should avoid walking down empty streets at night--in fact, men should do that too, and this rule holds true during the day. crowds=safety, at least most of the time! Look straight ahead and not directly at people. Trust your gut instinct and if people are being creepy run away or go somewhere else.
I've lived here quite some time, and I only know 2 or 3 people who've been mugged.
People always make New York city out to be some kind of gang place. The truth is you rarely run into trouble its all just a bunch of rumors. New York City is very safe. But there are homeless people wandering the streets and when asked for money just kindly deny.