Homelessness in New York City is an unfortunate reality for too many people. The middle class is slowly dissolving, creating a significant gap between the rich and the poor. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City increases every year while the average salary in New York City is stuck around $50,000.
Ask anyone looking for an apartment in New York City how their search is going, if they’ve convinced any realtors that they can afford a $1600 a month studio in a nice neighborhood yet.
I’ll try to avoid giving away too many of my thoughts on the economic issues of New York City, but I do believe fixing those will fix tons of issues like homelessness and addiction. Whenever I see a homeless person, I go back to every person that’s ever said, “They just want your money to go get drunk or to get high,” and walk away.
I don’t want to walk away, but I also know I’m not in a position to help. I had an encounter recently with one guy who was trying to find a soup kitchen on Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows, and he didn’t even ask for money, but he left after I gave him directions saying that even when you try to help yourself, there’s always something that prevents you from ever succeeding.
That to me is the troubling thing, and I hope one day we can fix that. It’s also troubling that most places don’t open until late in the afternoon. I hope bringing these scenarios and our real thoughts to life can help eliminate some of the stigmas that come with being homeless, and we can find real preventative, proactive solutions.
Against a Wall
I see an addict on the streets,
but I don’t really see him,
and perhaps he doesn’t see me
either, but we both see something
wrong with the picture,
and neither of us know how
to fix the problem.
However, all he knows is this:
I have money, and I can help him,
provided he words his case properly.
And I know can help him,
he sees me reach for my pocket–
his eyes light up–
instinctually, either to offer
a helping hand or to hide
what’s mine, what I earned
the hard way.
As if his life isn’t hard enough,
sitting on a cold New York City
corner in the middle of winter,
cornered by society, back against
a wall — literally and figuratively.
But I also have my own mouth to feed,
an apartment to pay for,
a child who wants a new toy.
In our world, these things matter,
and I matter,
and if I help every broken man,
I’d end up broke myself.
So as I walk away, I try
to come up with an excuse
as to why I can’t help today.
I stupidly ask, “Will you be here
tomorrow?” and he says,
“I certainly hope so,
but I don’t know.”
Final call for fiction submissions for the Winter Issue of Come and Go Literary! Deadline is 9/30 so please be sure to see my submission guidelines and submit before the end of the month. I accept all genres, but I’m severely lacking in fiction, so please send me your short stories, flash fiction, or microfiction before sending me poetry.