The Least We Can Do

With winter on its way, and in some cases already here, Halloween decorations are tapering out as first hints of plastic snowflakes and colorful pixie lights are popping up. The coats are getting heavier, the shoes thicker. With each day the standing space on the train gets smaller as layers pile on. And there is one thing that occupies my mind on these rides into the city.

I’m seeing on average four to five homeless people a day, walking through the train cars, asking for help. Their words are repetitive and rehearsed, and many of them seem hungry and bored. I wonder how many times a day they say the same thing, to get enough coins for anything. Most are people of color, many are approaching middle age, some are injured and sick. A man with elephantiasis lumbers through the cars every so often, mothers jangle coins in the near empty plastic cups.

I don’t know much about homelessness other than if there is a time to act it’s now. Shelters fill up year-round and supplies are always needed, but when the weather changes for the worst the demand is greater than ever.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness released a report that shows that homelessness has dropped by about 14.5% over the last decade, but that still leaves over half a million people out in the streets. The report also states, however, “the overall number of people experiencing homelessness increased nationally by 0.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. The largest increases in that time period were among unaccompanied children and young adults (14.3 percent), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (12.2 percent), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (9.4 percent). The number of people in families experiencing homelessness decreased by 5.2 percent.”

As the holiday season approaches, I offer you this call to action. Find a shelter near you and donate. Donate socks, or beanies, or sanitary products, or toys. Give blankets, and jackets. Give books. We’re so good at that last one. Everyone should be safe from the cold, and I think we should all give a little, because maybe it’ll add up to be enough.

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