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The Mean Streets: Homelessness in New York City

NEW YORK, NY – To have been given a life is a blessing, undeniably. And at the root of it all, it’s a blessing everyone shares—the rich and the poor; the full and the hungry.
New York City, our nation’s financial kingdom and likely the most concrete example of the American dream, is comprised of some of the most radically antonymous individuals to inhabit the country. Congregated on any given block, you’d find a man wearing $800 shoes standing adjacent to another that can’t begin to fathom that number. The two coexist, but rarely interact, and the value of one’s life compared to the other is aesthetically implicit.
According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, there are 64,000 homeless in New York.
“Just smile and take the punches as they come” said Darrin Joseph Sher, a recently injured carpenter now living outside Penn Station. 43-years old in

Darrin Sher, 43, currently lives outside of Penn Station in New York City.
Darrin Sher, 43, currently lives outside of Penn Station in New York City.

November, he has never been homeless before, and the change, he said, is horribly unsettling.
Two years ago, while working on the second story of a soon-to-be-built financial accounting firm, Sher slipped and fell directly on his right side, leaving his shoulder almost complete unusable.  His wife at the time was also injured and developed a liking for the Percocet she was prescribed, and, almost immediately after Sher’s injury, began taking his prescription. Understanding that his wife had developed a problem, he checked her into a rehabilitation facility and as she returned, she immediately filed for divorce, leaving Sher and his 18-year old daughter the next day.
Sher’s daughter entered John Jay School of Criminal Justice several weeks after and, thankfully, wasn’t put into the same position as her father. Without the ability to work, he was unable to pay his rent and quickly moved to the streets.
The morning Sher was interviewed, it was 58 degrees in the city, but the forecast predicted the temperature would drop significantly by the end of the week. With the temperatures steadily plummeting, the question of whether he had considered finding a shelter arose.  “The shelter is out of control, man,” said Sher. “If you aren’t a druggy, you’re either bi-polar or schizophrenic. There’s no order in there, dude”.
New York City is comprised of several dozen homeless shelters, stretching across all of the 5 boros. The facilities do a tremendous amount of good for the community, and there is certainly no doubting the validity behind that declaration, but by catering to the needs of thousands on any given day, conditions simply cannot remain structured and comfortable. This isn’t the Pursuit of Happiness—Will Smith isn’t tucking in a young Jaden in a warm bunk bed. Individuals are crammed like sardines inside the supposedly safe walls of the shelter and are effectively given open rain to operate in whatever way they can.
What was most powerful about Sher was the true reason behind his homelessness.  Considering the severity of his injury, Sher receives some subsidy for the incident every month—according to him, enough to pay rent.  That said, every cent of that check he receives, he puts directly towards his daughter’s tuition.  “She’s my daughter.  I’d do anything for her,” he assured.
Homelessness in New York City is not reserved for the drug addicted and down trodden.  The reality of homelessness is that anyone is susceptible, even a single father struggling to make a better life for his daughter.