As I Xed off the days on the calendar that hangs on the corkboard near our refrigerator, I realized we had been inside for more than week. Not literally, as we went for a walk on Sunday, and I went for a walk today. But we haven’t eaten out, been to work, the gym, therapy, the football factory, or any of the other places we regularly go in a week.
While this dawned on me, I realized it hasn’t been THAT bad. Dave and I are spending more time than ever together, even though he works at least from 6 or 7 AM until between 5.30 and 7 at night. Ellie is happy to have us home, although she has mostly been commandeering the bed during the day. I am most proud of our limited TV screen time. The usage rate on my phone and iPad are dreadful. But, I am attributing this to lots of phone calls and facetimes with my family and friends.
Dave and I are cooking fancy meals (now that we can eat again). I just made turkey burgers from scratch for a late lunch, because what else am I going to besides make a giant mess in the kitchen? I have meticulously planned our dinners through next Tuesday, but we will need to go to the grocery store this Thursday to stock up.
As I looked through the cabinets, cursing about why we have so many jars of spices (plus two spice racks on our counters), I realized we haven’t stockpiled that much food, but it’s definitely enough. My thoughts immediately went to all of the homeless people outside, who already are living on the streets, through the pandemic, the freak snow we had yesterday, and now have no source of income. There aren’t tourists out to appease the homeless, and give them food or money. I actually have been thinking about the homeless people in NYC a lot as this has been going on, and how it has affected me.
It probably is selfish in retrospect, to think about myself during this time. But it’s impossible not to think of the homeless too. The dramatic drop in tourists and commuters and other groups of people who give their leftovers, spare change after buying their coffee from the local cart, and even people like me who sometimes happen to have an extra protein bar in their bag and decide the person who is sitting in the rain on the street needs it more than me, are all missing. (This is the longest sentence ever but I promise it makes sense if you read it like three times and I just couldn’t make it smaller because they’re my feelz). I’m actually notorious for giving umbrellas away. It’s such a bad habit, but I just always think how much worse off they are than me, and how much more they need the umbrella than I do. I have given away my umbrella, gotten off the subway, and it’s been so rainy I have to buy another one. But I am lucky I have the privilege to afford one and do so.
The drastic drop in people also means that the homeless people stand out more. Perhaps, before the quarantine, they could walk amongst us, and one wouldn’t be so aware. But now, gathering in groups of 8-10, sitting in front of my building, how can I not be (even more) aware? (And I already was aware before, as we live in an area of the city that has a really high homeless population.) When I went for my run (lmao, as I’m editing this I saw I said run, it was a leisurely walk guys) today, I walked outside my building and I didn’t know which way to turn. I was so afraid of being assaulted, or mugged, which probably sounds really dramatic. But the sharp drop in the number of people in the city has left me with a new harsh reality-am I safe?
Dave has been sitting in the living room, facing out to the tunnel and 10th Ave, where there has continuously been a group of 5-6 men hanging out by the entrance to the tunnel. There is not another soul on the street between our two avenues. Every time I have decided to go for a walk, I think about that group of men and I become afraid. I walk with mace, but I don’t feel very protected being by myself.
I try everyday to learn more than I did before, and make a positive impact on the world. Today, I learned about Coalition for the Homeless, which the USA’s oldest charity supporting homeless men, women, and children. They have 11 frontline programs that support over 3,500 people directly. Some examples of what they do are: provide emergency food and clothing, eviction prevention, crisis services, permanent housing, job training and special programs for homeless youth.
Here are some more facts about homelessness in NYC:
New York City Homelessness: The Basic Facts
- In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- In January 2020, there were 62,679 homeless people, including 14,682 homeless families with 22,013 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up more than two-thirds of the homeless shelter population.
- Over the course of City fiscal year 2019, 132,660 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system. This includes over 44,300 different homeless New York City children.
- In 2015, families entering shelters predominantly came from a few clustered zip codes in the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. However, homeless families and single adults come from every zip code in NYC prior to entering shelters
- The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 60 percent higher than it was ten years ago. The number of homeless single adults is 139 percent higher than it was ten years ago.
- Research shows that the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. Surveys of homeless families have identified the following major immediate, triggering causes of homelessness: eviction; doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing; domestic violence; job loss; and hazardous housing conditions.
- Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have much higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.
- Each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.
- Studies show that the large majority of street homeless New Yorkers are people living with mental illness or other severe health problems.
- Black and Hispanic/Latinx New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 57 percent of heads of household in shelters are Black, 32 percent are Hispanic/Latinx, 7 percent are white, less than 1 percent are Asian-American or Native American, and 3 percent are of unknown race/ethnicity.
- Source: https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/
So, I decided to pledge $15 a month to the Coalition for the Homeless. When soup kitchens reopen and the world starts returning to normal, I think I will find one to volunteer at weekly. As a New Yorker, I want the city to feel safe for not only myself, but everyone. And no matter how bad I have it up here in quarantine, at least I have a home to be quarantined in, and hot food to make every night.
To make a donation, please visit https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/donate/
My favourite thing about my blog, (which was supposed to be a bloody travel blog!) is that I can just write. When I sat down to write today, about coronavirus, about NYC, about what I am experiencing, I had no idea where it would take me. I am also writing a book, and I keep a diary/journal whatever you want to call it. But it feels good & cathartic to share my thoughts and feelings with the 6 people who are going to read this (just kidding there’s actually like 45-50 of you). I encourage everyone at this time to explore their more creative parts, and even document what is happening right now in the world.