Street Life in New York City

Inspired by a post by Tiramit at Dhamma Footsteps

Have seen the plight of the working poor in India, especially working women in films like Ankur,” and in many other Indian films.  But it is not just India.  It is everywhere. And it is not just the working poor.


The belongings of the first resident to set up camp near a seminary and a church

A block away from our apartment in New York City is a tiny campsite of homeless people. I think of them every morning at prayer. I wonder should I bring them food? Coffee? Meantime, in shame and shamefully, I cross the street to avoid walking into their bedroom. I feel for them especially when I am sick and think how horrible to be homeless when sick. But actually it is a daily horror.  Only a scaffolding protects against the elements, the heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. And know I could be there, too, if not for the grace of God.  For these people are most likely unemployable.  Most likely they are mentally ill, like me, only unlike me, unable to work because they are untreated and homeless.  My husband, a retired psychiatric social worker had many homeless clients who could not work and could not get it together to get disability.  These clients spoke of the horrors of homeless shelters and explained how living in the streets is preferable.

The residents of this little homeless camp seek refuge and food in the church across the street. As they huddle in comforters in winter and on the sidewalk in summer, I ponder their lot in life while we have our little lives, wrapped in middle class comforts.

And in the United States we have a candidate who speaks to the rascist and xenophobic of our country.  To our shame to have even running.  But he also speaks to the working poor who are failing despite working one, two and three jobs, to the people who would despise the people down the block because the residents are not working.   And he promises his followers a better life.  And they believe his fantastic lies.  Such are among the many problems of having an underclass of the working poor.

26 responses

  1. Hi Ellen – nice to see you posting once again. I wonder what the stats are for mental illness amongst the homeless? I hadn’t particularly made that connection, myself. It’s an apposite point to consider from a sociological and political perspective, of course, yet we’re all of one and the same condition, in almost all respects, we humans, don’t you think? The poor worry about having no money, the rich worry about having it. The sick still love and hate, the well so too. Perhaps this sounds as if I’m diminishing the plight of the poor and sick, which I mean not to do, naturally. There’s this trope of the ‘Comfortable Middle Classes’, yet just look at the frightening stats on how many are limping through life on anti-depressants, coshed by chemicals into obeisance to what we must call society. Something needs to change. H ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    August 20, 2016 at 12:27 PM

    • Genie

      With all due respect, Hariod, I suggest you try being homeless, and then tell us that: “we’re all in one and the same condition”.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 20, 2016 at 11:39 PM

      • It’s an observation that I think Ellen will understand well – note that I said “in almost all respects”.


        August 21, 2016 at 12:27 PM

      • Thank you for writing in, Harriod. I know everyone has problems but I am afraid I am with Genie on this one.

        Liked by 2 people

        August 21, 2016 at 8:27 PM

      • Thank you for visiting, Genie, and commenting and attaching that moving video. xxellen

        Liked by 1 person

        August 21, 2016 at 8:28 PM

    • Do you feel so different from the homeless you care so much for, Ellen?


      August 21, 2016 at 8:35 PM

      • Well, obviously we are all human beings and, as such, live with the human condition and all of its vagaries.  But, yes, I feel differently.  I have a place I call home with a roof over my head I can hide out in and go to at will, with privacy and locks on the door,  a bathroom and toilet that I can keep clean, a kitchen I can go to for food, a computer on which I can work, relative safety as I sleep, a bed on which I can lie when I am tired or sick and clothes to wear and neighbors, and a place for my mail, as well as comforts such as TV, and a phone, etc. etc.  Maybe you will say the homeless live without all these attachments but I am not enlightened enough to live that way.  And given a chance, I think they would jump at the idea of having a home.  And I would not say my feeling about the homeless ” I care so much for” is accurate for if I cared so much for them, I would be doing something more to help them than I do.  

        Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

        Liked by 1 person

        August 21, 2016 at 11:02 PM

    • Hi Harriod, Thanks for visiting and your welcome back. Already said what I thought of your comment. But it is definitely true something has got to change. And I don’t know the stats but mental illness is the primary reason for homelessness I believe. They emptied out the mental hospitals. And now, well, we have lots and lots of untreated mental patients living in the streets. Uncredited for.

      Liked by 2 people

      August 21, 2016 at 8:40 PM

      • In the nineties, my son and I used to go around Oxford City here in England, and later Plymouth, talking to homeless people on the streets. What we found were people like you and I, who, but for the grace of god (as the saying goes), fell into misfortune from an otherwise ‘normal’ existence, or unwittingly went down a path that meant, ultimately, society rejected them. Some of their stories would move us to tears, as they would anyone with a modicum of empathy. In the late seventies and eighties I would have homeless people sleep in cardboard boxes right outside my office door in Soho, although that was a little different in that they were often part of the then vibrant Soho community, notwithstanding their desperate circumstances. The place is now gentrified, and the homeless driven out – marginalised still further in the pursuit of corporate profit.

        One of the reasons I have pictures of homeless people on my site is to remind myself and others that we are not so very different, that to make an ‘otherness’ of the social outcast only worsens the feelings of alienation that our market-obsessed ruling systems already impose upon such folk.

        As to those who are homeless and in need of psychiatric care, then they are completely outside the loop of what we here in England erroneously call ‘care in the community’ – the penny-pinching Thatcherite response to Social Care Services, and which our current Right Wing government not only endorses, but is shamelessly accelerating. My view is that we have been sold this concept of Neoliberalism (by the doctrines of Thatcherism / Reaganomics) and the politicians and media now think it’s the only option to pursue. It’s all about market and individual efficiency. Humanity plays no part, other than as producers and consumers, and failing to do either means the system rejects you. I feel and hope that we’re slowly moving towards a rejection of this pernicious ideology. The citizenry are seeing through it and the inequality it produces (see: Thomas Pikkety), although politicians and the mainstream media are well behind the curve – hence anomalies like Sanders and Corbyn, and even the ghastly neo-fascist Trump.

        With all best wishes, Hariod.


        August 22, 2016 at 6:08 AM

      • Hariod it was not my intention at all to marginalize the homeless at all, especially when I said in the post that they were like me, mentally ill, as I myself am mentally ill. Hats off to you and your son, dear Harriod, for talking to homeless people and listening to their stories. I have heard their stories through my husband who worked with the homeless.

        But according to Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the problems of the homeless are far more basic, and therefore, serious than any problems I may have. Yes, we are all the same but those who don’t have basic needs covered suffer in a way those more fortunate do, are desperate.

        It is not my wish to engage in endless discussions with over this post. It is the first post I have had the inclination to do in a long time. Clearly I should never taken on a post such as this, nor tried to argue with an intellectual giant such as yourself. And clearly I cannot handle this right now and am sorry I put anything like this out there and probably will not do so again.

        Liked by 1 person

        August 22, 2016 at 11:21 AM

  2. Homelessness and working poor are tragic realities in the US. Thank you for writing this post and sharing your photo.

    Liked by 3 people

    August 20, 2016 at 3:20 PM

    • Thank you, Kitt, for visiting and writing in. Praying for you all and think of you everyday. Love and strength, Ellen

      Liked by 1 person

      August 21, 2016 at 8:34 PM

      • Thank you, Ellen. Bless you. My love and prayers go out to you and yours, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        August 24, 2016 at 5:23 PM

  3. I used to live two doors away fromantic a drop in centre. Many homeless people and others were fed there. If you want to give them food, give them something soft, like bananas, for example. Here, at least, a lot of those people don’t have teeth or teeth that work.
    From what I could see, mental ill health was common. Some of people there preferred to sleep outside but of course not all of them.

    Liked by 3 people

    August 20, 2016 at 9:58 PM

    • Thanks for the tooth problem tip, Ashley, and for writing in. I’Lloyd see what I’ll do, if anything other than contribute clothes and stuff to the church across the street. I think most of the homeless are from when they emptied out the mental hospitals. I hear the shelters are hell. XX ellen


      August 21, 2016 at 8:32 PM

  4. Same situation here – seems to go with the system. Good luck with the election – a worse candidate I cannot imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 21, 2016 at 5:21 PM

    • Thanks, we need it. The man makes me nauseous. I can’t remember a worse candidate and we have had some bad ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 21, 2016 at 8:25 PM

  5. Genie

    We are so clumsy with pain

    We are so clumsy with the pain
    of other people
    we – so full of comfort
    so content
    to toss our velvet-coated words
    like crusts to beggars – fail to diagnose
    the nausea others feel for trite maxims
    moving without concern and suffering
    from ones who know starvation

    — Ralph Wright

    Liked by 1 person

    August 21, 2016 at 11:35 PM

  6. Genie

    Spare me from becoming an “intellectual giant” that would cause a sensitive, compassionate soul to regret posting this most moving post.

    Dearest Ellen, please reconsider posting more posts, and ones like this one about the homeless too, because the downtrodden, homeless, war-torn, etc., need your voice: their voice is voiceless — due to their tragic plight.

    I Am a Voice

    Poet, you must be my voice,
    I am homeless, an orphan, a widow, hungry,
    War-torn, unjustly arrested, injured…
    My voice has been silenced, please
    Speak of my plight — let people know:
    I am a voce crying for mercy.
    O! won’t hear me crying?


    August 22, 2016 at 3:01 PM

    • Thank you, Genie! Your kindness is much appreciated. You show so much courage in your posts. You are inspirational. The poem is beautiful!
      Love, Ellen

      Liked by 1 person

      August 22, 2016 at 9:03 PM

      • Genie

        Thank you, Angel.
        You inspire me, I was moved by your post, its raw and honest compassion for the tragic plight of the homeless, deeply touched my heart.

        Liked by 1 person

        August 22, 2016 at 9:12 PM

  7. Genie

    Spare me from becoming an “intellectual giant” that would cause a sensitive, compassionate soul [Ellen] to regret posting this most moving post.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 22, 2016 at 5:03 PM

  8. hard life!

    Liked by 1 person

    September 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM

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