By Batia Segal, Business Editor
It’s another Wednesday afternoon. I walk into the subway station to get to work and spot another person lying down on the bench of the platform. As I enter the train, I notice someone in ragged clothing talking to himself. I find a seat as far away from him as possible and make sure to switch subway cars by the next stop. Friday morning, I go to Penn Station, and the stench of bodily excretions and cigarette smoke invades my lungs. I look to the side and see several more people sleeping or asking me for spare cash. Suddenly, a man starts yelling. People freeze in uncertainty, and I am now primarily concerned with whether or not this man will approach me. The police come and try to calm him down. Then the train arrives and I hop on. At first I feel furious: I don’t understand why I, as a paying customer, have to experience such unpleasantness when using public transportation. I don’t understand why I cannot walk the streets of New York in peace without encountering someone sleeping on the sidewalk or being asked for money. In a state of outrage, I have the sudden urge to arrest all of the people using the streets as their bathroom and the sidewalks as their beds. But this would be immoral, I tell myself, and would not solve the issue permanently. I decided at that moment to make use of the wonderful gift that is the World Wide Web, and I googled: solutions to homelessness.
The most promising solution that I found is that of Salt Lake City in Utah. The city had a serious homelessness problem and was spending a lot of their budget on street maintenance. This is a consequence of the fact that homeless people have no other option but to use the sidewalk to relieve themselves. Additionally, the homeless are often prone to expensive injuries and prison time, skyrocketing the city’s costs by $30,000-$50,000 per person per year. In 2005, Salt Lake City finally decided it was enough and began the Housing First project. This project was started with the belief that solving the homelessness problem necessitates giving the homeless a home. In order to overcome issues that range from sobriety and mental health to physical disability, it is integral that they be given a permanent place of residence. Then we can offer therapy for their various problems. Between 2005 and 2015, the homeless population dropped ninety one percent. You’re probably wondering: what about from 2015 to 2020? Well, the number has increased since then because the state started withholding funding from the Housing First project. This information indicates that Housing First, along with the help of counseling, is currently the most effective way to solve homelessness.
Due to New York’s 92,091 homeless population, any possible long-term solution is going to be more complicated but is still possible. I propose the city build affordable housing units where homeless people have to live and be provided counseling so that they can reach a state where they are healthy enough to work and make a living for themselves. The only way that this can be effective is if they are no longer allowed to sleep on the streets and are in fact forced to join the program. Eventually, these individuals will get back on their feet and begin paying standard rent to the city, and can aid in economic growth. My solution is beneficial both for the homeless and for everyone else. Those living on the streets will become functioning members of society, increasing cash flow to further stimulate the economy, and the city will become a cleaner and more pleasant place to live.