Which state has the most shelters for the homeless?
Homeless in the US : Without a home and without rights
"I am a human. But I'm being treated like an animal, ”says Floyd Parks into the microphones. The sun shines on his face, the 60-year-old blinks and wipes sweat from his forehead. His voice is rough and fragile. “At one corner it says: away! At the next corner: gone! Where should we stay? ”He asks. "I hope someone hears this," he says before leaving the stairs of New York City Hall. Usually, Floyd Parks hardly listens to anyone. He spends his days and nights in underpasses in Harlem.
Around 50 homeless people, lawyers and activists gathered in front of Mayor Bill de Blasio's office this noon in mid-October. Plus camera teams and newspaper reporters. "Apartment keys instead of handcuffs," says one of the many posters. The men and women are wearing blue T-shirts, sponsored by the non-profit organization "Picture the Homeless", which has invited to the press conference and is campaigning against the criminalization of the homeless and for more accommodation. While the speakers are shouting their anger, town hall employees run out of the sandstone-colored building into their lunch break. You look confused.
The number of homeless people in New York is at its highest level since the Great Depression in 1929. The accommodations - called “shelter” - currently number 58,700 women, men and children. That’s more people than Greifswald has inhabitants. The number of New Yorkers who rely on assembly points has almost doubled over the past decade (32,000 in October 2005). It is particularly frightening that almost 23,000 children and young people are currently living in shelters for the homeless. The numbers come from the Department of Homeless Service. But the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. There is no information about how many thousands of New Yorkers spend the night on sidewalks, park benches or on the subway.
Politicians are slow to react
In New York and other major US cities, politics are gradually responding to the growing problem. At the end of September, de Blasio announced that he would invest one billion US dollars over the next four years. De Blasio had already presented a ten-year plan in 2014, according to which 200,000 new, affordable apartments are to be built. In addition, rent increases are to be curtailed and tenant rights are to be strengthened. Together with his wife Chirlane McCray, de Blasio mainly wants to take care of the homeless with mental health problems. For example, the New York police, who repeatedly attract attention through acts of violence, should be better prepared for such situations.
The city of Los Angeles even declared a state of emergency at the end of September with a view to the many homeless. In the west coast metropolis there are currently around 26,000 people without permanent residence. Since Mayor Eric Garcetti took office two years ago, the number of homeless has risen by twelve percent. “Every day when we go to work we see people lying around. A symbol of the city's crisis, ”said Garcetti. Officially, around 115,000 people are homeless across California. But as the city governments in New York and Los Angeles pledge funds and support, the homeless feel persecuted and humiliated.
Floyd Parks from New York wears jeans, a T-shirt and a cap. “That's all I have,” he says, leaning on his rollator. He used to work as an ambulance driver. Then his wife got a divorce. Parks became depressed, lost his home in 2003 and has lived in shelters for the homeless ever since. “But then they stole me. In addition, the houses are almost falling apart and are overcrowded, ”says the African American. In an emergency, he decided to live on the street. The biggest enemy there is the police. "Sometimes they scare us away three times a day," says Parks.
Now Norman Siegel steps in front of the microphones. The 72-year-old lawyer was between 1985 and 2000 director of the "New York City Liberties Union", a civil rights association founded in 1951. Siegel wears leather shoes and a coat. The homeless position themselves behind him. He's a hero to them. “These people need dignity. They don't even block roads. You just sit. It's legal. What the police do is illegal, ”shouts the New York-born seal. It confirms what so many homeless people complain about: constant criminalization. "It is obviously part of the tactics of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Chief William Bratton to carry out raids on homeless camps," says the lawyer.
At the beginning of October the magazine "Vice" reported on those raids in a large report. Special police units - called "warrant squads" on the street - would regularly search through homeless shelters between 3 and 5 o'clock at night. We are looking for people against whom open arrest warrants are pending. "Anyone who received a ticket for public urination in 1996 is still in this system," a police officer confirmed to the magazine.
Attorney Siegel says: “We have to show real alternatives in which these people can live. Not just broken houses or prisons or psychiatric hospitals. ”During his speech, Siegel always holds up his fist. It is not the first time that the well-known lawyer speaks in front of New York City Hall. His opponent is the mayor, whether his name is Rudolph Giuliani, who was in office from 1994 to 2001, Michael Bloomberg (2002 to 2013) or de Blasio. Siegel demonstrated against all of them.
And then Siegel touches on another topic that is particularly important to him. "The homeless problem in the US is a racism problem," says the lawyer. In fact, 60 percent of the homeless in New York are black while only a quarter of the population is black. “Look at her!” Siegel calls at the end. The women and men in the blue T-shirts behind him answer: “Look at us!” They are almost exclusively African-American.
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