It was a quarter passed 9 am, my wife and I had just exited the PATH train from our home in downtown Jersey City, to Penn Station in Newark, NJ. Upon exiting the West end of the transit hub I bared witness to a fifty yard line of dusty blankets, shopping carts, sleeping bags, the occasional tent and lastly the wrinkled faces glazed with sweating in the extreme July heat. This was a Monday morning in a fairly large well known city, at least in the New York metropolitan area. I’ve been through this section of walkway before and never seen so many cold, desperate and somewhat ghostly looking figures before. And no, these weren’t some of the phony homeless you’ll come across on occasions who’ll ask you for a five dollar bill and they’re dressed better then you are. These folks were wispy, smelling of mildew from never having the luxury of washing their clothes. As we did our best to politely give what we could fiscally, we continued only two blocks up Broad Street and to our left is a sparkling, 380 million dollar hockey/concert arena, the Prudential Center, which due to Covid-19 had been vacant for nearly a year (info hockey.ballparks.com). Here in lies the ultimate ugliness of capitalism and the fact a corporation, in accordance with local government were willing to spend millions of dollars on a palace of an arena so upper class teenagers can come from South Jersey to watch Taylor Swift in concert. Newark is one example on a bit of a lesser scale as the homeless population as of 2019 was 1,928 compared to the overall population of 281,544 (stats courtesy of tapinto.net) pales in comparison to the city which represents all of world capitalism 20 miles east which of course is New York City. And wait till you here these numbers, as of January 2019, New York City’s population was 8.5 million (census.gov), the amount of homelessness, this including families with children, but also only counting people in shelters so the number can never be truly accurate was an astounding 55,915 as of January 2021. When you account for the folks living in subways, abandoned buildings and sidewalks the number is closer to 80,000 by most estimations. I always stunk at math but it adds up to one in every 106 New Yorkers are homeless and it’s an embarrassment. Blame it on whomever you please, Bloomberg gentrified every borough in the city and priced out the lower class, Bill DeBlasio is a hapless leader or Rudy Giuliani got it started by his fascists rule in the mid 90’s, whatever the case, this is capitalism at it’s saddest and most despicable. Tourists paying 5.00 dollars for a can of Pepsi in Times Square, while homeless men sing Sam Cooke for a buck, it’s pretty sick actually but the out of towners seem to get a kick out it, makes you wonder what ancient Rome was like with it’s bread and circuses.
To make you better understand not just the horrifying tallies of homelessness in the area in which I reside and frequently visit here are some national numbers which should grab anyone’s attention. Again thanks to census.gov, as of 2020 the unofficial number of United States residents stands at 331 million. Making the US the third most populous country in the world with China and India the only nations who are in the billions. The number of homeless people as of 2020 ( info courtesy of endhomelessness.org) is 552,830, as most of you educated folks know the United States has the number one economy in the world and is also, despite recent downturns due to the pandemic, still the financial hub of the western Hemisphere. That number of over half a million people living on the street is comparable to the entire population of Fresno, California (statisca.com). Here in the United States since the 1950’s we’ve always loved to start “wars” on what the government deemed domestic problems of immense proportions. It started with McCarthyism and his “war” on Communism, and we know how insane, undemocratic and damaging to the United States reputation around the world that turned out to be. It eventually led to the most devastating, horrendous actually war in US history, the Vietnam War. Decades later crack cocaine exploded onto the Urban culture scene, getting countless, mostly African-American people addicted. The drug made it’s way into the suburban middle class, predominately white neighborhoods and as we know the Reagan administration incited more socially conscious warfare, the infamous and ultimate failure, the “War on Drugs”. In every way possible this was a long lasting, monumental catastrophe in every way, but let’s look at the price tag. Over a 40 year period, which is from 1980-2020, 1 Trillion dollars has been spend on advertising, DARE education and various other unsuccessful, domestic programs (drugpolicy.org). As we now know this ‘war” has been a tremendous defeat in every way, Opiates are now an epidemic that killed over 81,000 people nationwide as of May 2020 (CDC.gov.)
The point that I’m getting at with all these hypothetical wars is has there ever been a “war” on poverty, “war” on childhood homelessness? Nothing was ever proclaimed nationally, the research I’ve conducted for this article showed various news stories from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Veterans Affairs, but the mainstream media has never flooded the airwaves with scenes of homeless army veterans, people sleeping on subways or children in shelters. You’re more likely to see hideous anti-smoking ads, anti-drug advertisements on bus stops, and Covid-19 masks instructions on trains, yeah, they’re plenty of those helpful little signs. But nothing about poverty, and the obvious reason is it’s the problem, other then maybe immigration, that governments of not just the United States but also the United Kingdom, either don’t have a clue on how to rectify or simply are just apathetic about. I sure hope it’s not the latter, because it’s certainly a difficult issue to tackle. First off, you have the mentally ill which studies show make up 46 percent of homeless adults in the US have some sort of mental illness (mentalhealthfirstaid.com). Then the drug addicted, in many cases this group either avoids help altogether, due to the inability to stay clean long enough to apply for housing assistance or just have been swept up by the street life and eventually end up with no place to live. The percentage of homeless in the US with drug addiction stands at 64% have used drugs heavily within a month of becoming homeless (rehabspot.com). We have learned, especially people who are addicts and work with the addicted know now it’s classified as a disease, so before you just accept the excuse that they have made their own bed in life and now need to sleep in it, that is an ignorant way of looking at the matter.
The scourge of homelessness has reached it’s way across the Atlantic Ocean and become a gigantic problem in the United Kingdom, as well. I’ve signed various petitions on Twitter recently and it’s educated me that the homelessness complication isn’t just a US mess. Shelters estimate that 280,000 souls were homeless in just England alone, that’s not including Wales or Scotland (www.gov.uk). Compare that with the overall population of England which was 66.5 million and the statistics are just as stark as their brethren across the pond. I was always under the illusion that the UK had a better welfare system so I had to do some real digging. Now they most definitely have a superior healthcare system with the NHS, that can’t be argued, but what’s the story with these appalling homelessness numbers. Many of the problems derive from the same matters here in the States, drug abuse, lack of affordable housing and mental illness. Doing some searching I do notice that people in the UK do notice the concerns more and at least make attempts at grassroots campaigns to help stem the rise. The United States, which over the last 20 years have been so drenched in the capitalist ways of living, and only worrying about themselves they’re much more likely to just not give a shit about their fellow humans suffering.
One of favorite punching bags Boris Johnson has been quoted as saying the “rough sleeping” numbers, surely an English tern new to me, was “unacceptable” as estimations of people living on the streets in the autumn of 2019 was upwards of 5,000 (info BBC.com). Those were some of the highest tallies in decades, London has been specifically problematic, as 10,700 homeless were accounted for in the years of 2019-2020, a nearly 2,000 increase from the year before. Keep in mind, these numbers were mostly pre Covid-19 and even before Brexit officially went into effect. Now the obvious question here is why? With all the technological progress, seemingly a dearth in many different employment categories, including the healthcare industry, trucking and obviously corporate behemoths, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Cosco etc. I can’t speak for the UK on this matter, but when I was growing up the public school systems did an absolutely pathetic job in preparing children for what to expect in the world. Education in the US and the UK was ranked number 1 and 2 in overall education as of 2020 , according to (usnews.com), so maybe my particular school was just a horrific anomaly. Perhaps the Millinenial generation I’m apart of was a heavily drugged up mostly slacker group of youths who figured they could live in mom’s basement until they’re late thirties. Trust me I’m going somewhere with this.
Homelessness in nothing new, it’s been a mostly urban issue over the last 100 years or so. The first real crisis came shortly after the stock market crash which led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Children were forced to quit school as young as seven to work to put enough food on the table, if their family had a table. The actual statistics of families without a roof over their heads vary greatly during that time period, but I contend that should have been more a wake up call to the decadence, corporate dominated world the US and some of their European allies were guilty of in the so called “Roaring Twenties”. Perhaps, the only US President to really care about poor people FDR famously rescued not just Wall Street and Corporate entities but also thanks to his years of “New Deal” social programs, helped reinvigorate the working class. It was an amazing accomplishment that should have set more of an example for future dealings with economic downtowns which led to continued homelessness.
These capitalist CEO’s who love to have their shoes shined for being such wonderful philanthropists, well here’s a statistic that added to my new found radicalism against ultra capitalism, Jeff Bezos heroic Plutarch, is worth 185.2 Billion dollars (info Forbes.com). These fun little breakdowns are always hypothetical, as many hypocrites out there say “If I had his wealth I share with the world.” Well, Jeff Bezos has enough where he could give every person in the United States 106,000$ and still be one the top 100 richest men in the world. If that fact doesn’t start you thinking Democratic Socialism might not be such an impossible dream well maybe you’ve never been in the London Underground, Newark Penn Station, Christopher St New York City or South Philadelphia. I’d just like to say this of all my editorials whether it’s as well written or even researched as some others it means more to me personally. I’m a Pro-Palestinian activists, I’m anti-war, anti-capitalist, Pluralist and I’m strongly against Police brutality. Its nauseating to walk down my subway and see people of all colors, ages, genders and creeds starving in the heart of the financial hub of the world. The man with the suit will toss a buck and feel better about himself, while he makes his way to his thousand dollar office space to figure out more ways to cut corners so he could whisk his mistress on a trip to the Caribbean. Anything wrong with a picture like that, Where has our world gone wrong?
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