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Homelessness Is Growing. Got Any Ideas for the New Mayor?

image ALANZO
Age 33
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Messenger

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? I don't have a problem with it. If people who live near that church are complaining, it's typical for the neighborhood. You can't ask for the time on the Upper East Side without someone giving you a lot of attitude.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? We live in the richest city in the country, and in the richest county in the world. Why is anybody homeless here? There have got to be more programs for ex-offenders, and to aid and assist people coming from jail. People are working so hard, but for most of us it's paycheck to paycheck. I work for minimum wage and my paycheck is always short. It's humiliating to have to go in and ask them to correct it. Then, after I've paid my bills, it's Monday morning and I'm broke again with nothing but the MetroCard they attach to my paycheck. Welfare helped me in the '70s and '80s,but I'm against it now. I'm trying very hard to stay on the path, but I'm very frustrated. I need some help, and there is none.

Have you ever been homeless? Yes, and you wouldn't believe the things you have to do just to survive. Going home with a girl you don't love, just to sleep in a warm bed is the least of it.


image BROOK GASSEL
Age 21
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Student

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? The issue doesn't really affect me, but I don't really like the idea. The steps of a church are no different from the steps of any other building. It looks bad, and it's annoying to the people walking by. Maybe they should let people come inside.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? They should provide more guidance and advice. I think that Bloomberg is concentrating on these low-level, "quality of life" crimes, and of course he's also having to look at bigger issues now. I don't think homelessness is as big an issue as it has been in the past, but it still has to be addressed so that it doesn't get out of hand.

Have you ever been homeless? No.


image JOHN VALDES
Age 19
Resides Queens
Occupation Retail sales

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? I really think there could be much better accommodation for the homeless than the stairs of a church.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? There should be a lot more assistance in the shelters, particularly psychiatric help. A lot of homeless New Yorkers need it. I've never been in a shelter, but I understand why people are so afraid to be in them.

Have you ever been homeless? Yes. I lived in a basement, a storage basement, for three months. It was the worst experience of my life. One of the sewage pipes had broken and every time people in the building above me flushed the toilet, whatever was in them poured out into the basement. I lived and slept surrounded by water that was full of piss and shit. It was terrible.


image ROB PETRIE
Age 23
Resides Queens
Occupation Photography retoucher

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? I think it's good. If the church isn't owned by the city, then the city has no say as long as these people aren't harassing anybody. At the same time, I don't know why people are on the street in the first place. You can't just give up.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? I think it's up to the homeless to get back on their feet. It's got to be so tough to be out on the street. A big company I work with just went out of business after many years. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs. These are hard times for everyone, but you can't just sit there. You've got to keep going.

Have you ever been homeless? Me? No. I was kicked out of my father's house. One day, I came home from work and my father told me to do something when I just wanted to sit down and relax for a minute. We had a fight, and he told me that I was going to have to start paying rent. It wasn't even his house we were living in, it was his girlfriend's. I moved out after that. Actually, I wanted to leave anyway. I moved in with my mother. Now she's moving out. It used to be that the kids left home, but these days it's the parents. My mother's 53 and she's never lived on her own. My sister and I are going to take over the rent.


image SIMONE WRIGHT
Age 22
Resides Queens
Occupation Student

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? I really don't think there's anything wrong with it, but I can see how it might scare away members of the community. Maybe the church could turn some of its unused space into a "baby" shelter, a small place where people could sleep at night when it's cold.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? Bloomberg says he's going to put police officers in city shelters, and the presence of cops will help. But the changes have to be much more organized. I'd involve more volunteers and hire more experts. Really, they need to just open more shelters. I know a lot of the neighborhoods where they've planned to put shelters have objected to them, but I don't like the fact that we're happy to send aid to other countries while letting Americans go hungry and homeless.

Have you ever been homeless? No, I haven't.


image TOPAZ
Age 25
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Filmmaker

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? Every day I walk past quite a number of homeless people. Initially, I was a bit concerned and apprehensive, but now I'm not. If the church thinks it's OK to have people sleep there, I have no problem with it. I do think that the problem here isn't that people are sleeping on the steps, but that they're not willing to go to the shelter. Obviously, the shelters aren't working because people don't feel safe in them.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? I'm originally from Santa Monica, which has a big homeless population, in part because of the warm weather and liberal politics. The city did move a lot of homeless out of certain parts of town because their presence was deterring tourism. In general, if you say that the purpose of a shelter is to help people regroup, then there should be cops and social workers there. Whatever it takes to get people back on their feet.

Have you ever been homeless? No, I haven't.


image RENNA RAHMAN
Age 18
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Student

What do you think about the homeless sleeping on church steps? I don't blame them for not wanting to go to a shelter. I've heard they're horrendous. A church is probably the only place they're treated with any respect. If the shelters were any good, people wouldn't be having to sleep outside. Imagine choosing to live in a cardboard box in 30 degree weather.

What should the city do to relieve homelessness? It's not an easy thing. The city should put professionals in the shelters who are trained to help people get jobs and get back on their feet.

Have you ever been homeless? No, it's one thing I haven't had to go through.

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