We live in the largest city in one of the richest nations on Earth—and yet, thousands of our fellow New Yorkers brave the elements or the city’s shelter system every night because they have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless—the nation’s oldest advocacy group providing social services for the homeless—New York City’s homeless population has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression and, as of September, more than 62,300 people sleep each night in the five boroughs’ shelter system.
Additionally, the coalition discovered that there are more than 15,500 families and 23,445 homeless children sleeping in the shelter system every night. This number is 74 percent higher than it was 10 years ago. And each night, thousands of homeless people sleep on New York City streets or in its subway system or other public spaces. This is unacceptable.
For many people, the holiday season is a time for reflecting on the things for which we are thankful, and a majority of families have the luxury of doing this around a dinner table. However, many less-fortunate families in our city likely spend Thanksgiving in the same manner that they spend any day—trying to survive.
There are a number of people on the streets of our city who need your help this holiday season. In an ideal world, helping the homeless would be a year-round task shared by New York City’s citizens. However, the holidays tend to be a time when people put forth a more-concerted effort to help our city’s less fortunate.
So, any little bit helps—whether you donate a coat to a local drive or food to a neighborhood food bank or pantry. There are also a number of opportunities to feed the homeless near the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. Check with your local places of worship or elected officials to find out about events taking place in your community to help the homeless.
Or, visit the city Department of Homeless Services’ website (https://www.nycservice.org/search/#s) for opportunities to volunteer at a shelter or deliver food to the homeless.