You ignore them when they ask you for spare change. You walk right past them when they are on the floor, handmade sign in-hand, holding out their plastic Subway cup. You avoid the door they are holding for you when you leave Wendy’s, just so you don’t have to give them any money. However, they just might save your life.
This year, in New York and New Jersey, the homelessness “problem” has become a solution. As every other state is trying to figure out how to deal with the increase of vagrancy, thanks to rising costs of living, gentrification, no increase of the federal minimum wage, the stigma of mental illness or addiction and a for-profit healthcare industry, New York and New Jersey have found the solution: stop worrying about it.
As funds for homelessness prevention have either disappeared completely or decreased over time in both states, ignoring the homeless has become an official government response. It’s no longer just you who treats them like less-than-human creatures. As heartless as this sounds, there is some rhyme to their reason. With a decrease in funds for the police and the privatization of our civil servants, what a better way to save money than to just rely on the vigilance of the homeless. The higher derelict population we have, the more chances that they will find a bag full of explosives and alert the police, like what just happened in Elizabeth, New Jersey. If two homeless men hadn’t found the bag, it may have detonated and hurt so many people at the train station. Thanks to their intervention, they managed to mistakenly defuse the bomb and keep hundreds safe!
How about the case earlier this year at the New York Port Authority where one young homeless man overheard the ramblings of a man he was going to share some pot with and was able to alert the police and save their lives? He stopped a potential cop-killer from acting out his plans and may have saved countless others in the process. If it wasn’t for our homeless population, cases like this would never end in our favor. If we can’t have enough police on the streets or pay them enough to be everywhere, as it is, then we can at least be thankful that the homeless have our back, even when we don’t have theirs.
“The homeless are a valued asset in our fight against terrorism,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re so lucky to have a city that has some of the richest companies here, with some of the highest paid executives and still also have one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. That contrast is what makes New York work and it is going to save a lot of lives. You call 911 when you know you need a life saved, but what happens when you don’t know it yet? The derelicts are there to save the day. They are our eyes and ears on the streets, because they are always on the streets and we like them there, just fine. What you call a homelessness problem we call a 24 hour neighborhood watch. You want us to stop homelessness? That’s ridiculous. You just can’t, but you can increase it, so that’s what we’re going to do. So please, when you walk passed them on the street, don’t give them any money or food, just look at them in the eye and say, ‘Thank you.’ That’s all they really need.”