In the ’90s, when I had my oldest son at 22 ½, I was making $35,000 a year. I had minimal debt, other than my living expenses: rent, utilities, transportation, food/necessities, and my beeper – Yes, it was a necessity. However, I did not foresee the expenses a newborn would entail, particularly a very sick newborn. Childcare, pampers, formula, clothes, doctors’ visits, etc., ate up what I made. By the time he was 5 months, I had received an eviction notice.
I was scared and alone.
The birth of my son caused friction in my family. I was the first to have a child. I was also unmarried. I was a shame to their name, a pariah within my own familia, forced to wear a scarlet letter “P”. They could not see the need, only their embarrassment; as a result, when I approached a family member for assistance I was told to go to a shelter, while others chose to ignore our existence for many years.
I recall feeling desperate. I could not work more hours than I already did. In fact, I had to cut my hours, because my son was severely asthmatic, requiring hospitalization and medications that were not fully covered by my medical.
The thought of going to a homeless shelter with a newborn terrified me. I knew of others who had at one point or another lived in homeless shelters. It. Was. Not. Pretty. Their stories were downright terrifying.
Thankfully, two friends stepped in to help me and my son, financially and emotionally. They gave me the help I needed at the moment to pass that hurdle in my life. They helped me persevere, giving me a chance to catch my breath, and change several aspects of my life, including my career choice.
Homelessness has become an epidemic in New York City.
According to Albor Ruiz’s article: Shame of the city is skyrocketing homelessness; up 61% since Mayor Bloomberg took office, as of January “57,000 people – including 22,000 children – were sleeping in city shelters or on the streets.” Those figures are staggering.
Hurricane Sandy, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, mental illness and the dismal economy, have played a huge part in the homeless epidemic.
It is no longer safe to say that six (6) months of saving can sustain you during a time of crisis. It can happen to anyone, in any social economic standing. In fact, there is a larger percentage of poor middle-class than ever before!
Homelessness is not the face you imagine. It can be white, black, brown, thin, fat, young or old. It does not discriminate.
Because, at one point or another, we all need a helping hand.
Want to help? Go to NYC Service to volunteer at organizations that can use your time and BLANK skills.
USE YOUR BLANK FOR GOOD.
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