Return of the Homeless

In the 1980’s, everyone was talking about vagrants, beggars, and other streetpeople. They came to be known universally as “the homeless,” and governmental agencies, churches, and advocacy groups rallied to help them. Shelters were established, and transitional and permanent housing alternatives were proposed.

The work of these entities and the increasing prosperity of New York City since then led to a significant decline in the homeless population. Incarnation and Murray Hill no longer had neighbors who lived on the street.

Unfortunately, in the past year, the homeless population again seems to be increasing. Statistics of shelter residents and applications for housing are soaring. Sleepers are again seen in Penn Station and there are now little nightly encampments under sidewalk bridges. A new and unfortunate fact is that among the drug addicts and alcoholics these days are healthy persons to prefer begging and sleeping rough to a conventional lifestyle (this last news comes from a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney.)

For those of us who are Christians and feel a responsibility to care for those in need, this development is disturbing. Let’s hope our activist mayor and compassionate police commissioner address this issue before our city once again becomes ugly and dangerous–and the homeless again start dying on the streets. —J. Douglas Ousley

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