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Final Blog Post assignment: Vagrancy in NY

Summary

In NYC homelessness is a prevalent ongoing and ever growing problem that seems to never be solved no matter the time or mayor. However homelessness is not an irrevocable issue, although complex it can be solved through the capabilities of the local nyc government. In recent years homelessness in NYC has reached numbers not seen since the great depression of the 1930’s, and in December of 2022 NYC saw 68,00 homeless sleeping in a homeless shelter each night, further analysis has shown that the main reasons for homelessness can be tracked to lack of affordable housing, mental health issues, substance abuse issues. Modern homeless can be attributed to drastic and consequential changes in government attitude towards cheaper housing for poor people, and hostile and ill thought out mental health policies adopted by the NY government all the way back to 1950.

What is an SRO? - SRO, or single room occupancy is housing directed at low income or minimal income residents. These housing units usually consisted of minimal furniture and bathrooms or kitchens would reside usually in another part of the building. SRO’s were created due to the increasing demand of housing in urban spaces from the industrialization and urban population explosion .They would occupy a unique range of structures from hotels, to lodging houses, rooming houses, and etc, landlords would also illegally divide up apartments to create these cheap housing alternatives. These SRO’s were crucial for those in poverty, as it was the last safety net of housing they had, and without them tens of thousands of people would have been living in the streets. SRO’s had an average rent of $450 and $750 per month, in parallel rent for a rent controlled unit is around $895 a month. And by mid 20th century NYC started to systematically eradicate these housing units with a series of codes and laws, leaving thousand destitute on the street or searching for other alternatives.

Deinstitutionalization-
Deinstitutionalization: In the 1920’s the government started to see problems with psychiatric wards, as they were becoming more and more expensive to maintain and at the same time becoming overcrowded. The conditions were also borderline inadequate with many centers being understaffed and with patients being neglected by the staff. Public attitude also began to change about institutionalization after journalists documented these inhumane conditions in the hospitals and the horrors of the nazi’s eugenics in psychiatric wards came to light after ww2. The government decided to adopt new policies to deinstitutionalize America's cities. President Kennedy created the community mental health act, CHMA. The idea was to put these patients out into their community where they would live in non psychiatric residentials, and community based psychiatric centers would be built to support those transitioning into normal society. they would be able to live in more humane environments. Psychiatric medication was also discovered which helped cut costs and allowed people with severe mental illness to function in society given that they take their medication. But this notion that psychiatric medicine would be able to cure someone's illness was simply false, you can't cure somebody of schizophrenia or depression the same way you use antibiotics to fight an infection. But these policies underestimated the amount of patients being released, so the psychiatric community centers and residential living areas were then overwhelmed. And many individuals were left to fend for themselves on the streets.

In todays time homelessness has become an even bigger issue, government attitude towards it has become hostile and unproductive, unwilling to provide permanent solutions local government would rather try and sweep the issue under the rug by criminalizing vagrancy. Shelters have become overcrowded and underfunded, and the ones most affected by this are the African Americans and indigenous groups because of historical inequalities and structured racism. In my opinion I believe the problem is straightforwardly solvable by local government by building permanent supportive housing and building more deeply affordable housing. And as a individual you can join a coalition/organization that strives to pressure government to put out solutions.

sources
-https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/why-are-so-many-people-homeless/
-https://www.apartmentlawinsider.com/blogs/adam-leitman-bailey/understanding-single-room-occupancy-laws#:~:text=Single%2Droom%20occupancy%20housing%2C%20or,floor%20in%20a%20shared%20capacity.
-https://nextcity.org/features/the-80-a-week-60-square-foot-housing-solution-thats-also-totally-illegal
-https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/Mass%20Murder%20of%20People%20with%20Disabilities%20and%20the%20Holocaust%20web.pdf

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