I first met Charmain in 2013. You can watch her original interview here At the time, Charmain shared she has been in and out of the New York City homeless shelter system since 2005. It’s hard to imagine that homeless services could not house this woman in fifteen years.
In the homeless sector, you’ll often hear politicians and nonprofit executives use the phrase “homeless people are service resistant.” The truth is, services are people resistant. 100% of homeless people will go into housing and stay in housing if it’s the right housing. This short video [ on housing my homeless friend Lanny proves it.
Charmain slept outside the night before, even though she is placed in a temporary shelter. Charmain is a survivor of domestic violence, yet New York City’s social services placed her in a shelter with all men. Charmain feels after on the streets than in the shelter she has been placed in.
Charmain said, “they push you until you have a mental breakdown, and then you’ll get your own apartment.” What she is referring to is the homeless sector priorities people based on their vulnerability. This model developed as a way to triage homelessness with limited resources. Although I used to support this, in recent years, I have changed my mind. If Charmain was housed after being homeless in New York City for fifteen years, it would take her several years and support to heal. Charmain is in her 40s, she’s intelligent, and to survive NYC’s streets, she obviously is tough. In a few years, Charmain may be able to re-stabilize. If we wait until her mental state gets worse, social services will be taking care of her for the rest of her life.
Since her first Invisible People interview in 2013, Charmain says she has slept outside 80% of the time. Last winter, she stayed in the temporary homeless shelter, but as soon as the weather got warm and the coronavirus pandemic hit, Charmain came right back outside.
I adore Charmain. It was great seeing her again. I love reconnecting with people I interviewed in the past, yet it’s so heartbreaking seeing people still outside after years of homelessness.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.
Special thanks to Josh Dean from
More NYC stories:
Disabled Homeless Woman Sleeps on the Streets of New York City
Homeless Vietnam veteran in NYC uses his military training to survive
Young Homeless Girl Living on the Streets of New York City.
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About Invisible People
There is a direct correlation between what the general public perceives about homelessness and how it affects policy change. Most people blame homelessness on the person experiencing it instead of the increasing shortage of affordable housing, lack of employment, a living wage, or the countless reasons that put a person at risk. This lack of understanding creates a dangerous cycle of misperception that leads to the inability to effectively address the root causes of homelessness.
We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Each day, we work to fight homelessness by giving it a face while educating individuals about the systemic issues that contribute to its existence. Through storytelling, education, news, and activism, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.
However, there is more work to be done on the road ahead. Homelessness is undoubtedly one of our biggest societal issues today and will only continue to grow if we don’t take action now.
Invisible People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about homelessness through innovative storytelling, news, and advocacy. Since our launch in 2008, Invisible People has become a pioneer and trusted resource for inspiring action and raising awareness in support of advocacy, policy change and thoughtful dialogue around poverty in North America and the United Kingdom.