The UAM Hub

The Student News Site of The Urban Assembly for Media Studies

The UAM Hub

The UAM Hub

Meg Aghamyan In collaboration with Meg Aghamyan

In the bustling streets of New York City, alongside the towering skyscrapers and vibrant neighborhoods, lies a persistent and deeply troubling problem: homelessness. As the city that never sleeps, New York is also home to thousands who have no place to sleep or call their own.

The issue of homelessness gained significant attention in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to factors such as economic recession, cuts to social welfare programs, the deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities, and a shortage of affordable housing. This period marked the beginning of public awareness and policy responses to address the crisis, despite homelessness being a persistent issue throughout the city’s history. In recent years, homelessness has emerged as one of the most pressing social issues facing our city, demanding urgent attention and concerted efforts from all sectors of society.

According to recent reports from reputable sources like The New York Times, the number of homeless individuals in NYC has soared to record levels. In 2022 alone, the Department of Homeless Services identified over 80,000 people living without stable housing, highlighting the severity of the crisis. These are not just statistics; they represent real individuals and families grappling with unimaginable challenges daily.

As UAM’s  social worker noted, “Students facing homelessness and housing instability most commonly have challenges revolving around consistency. This can mean they also face food instability, lack a place to have any privacy or store their belongings, and have difficulty coming to school on a consistent basis.” This lack of consistency can severely affect a student’s ability to focus, their sleep patterns, and overall mental health.

Story continues below advertisement

The impact of homelessness reverberates across our city, affecting public health, safety, and the overall well-being of our communities. From crowded shelters to makeshift encampments on sidewalks, the visible signs of homelessness serve as a stark reminder of the inequalities that persist in our society. Moreover, homelessness is not just a housing issue; it is often intertwined with complex issues such as mental illness, addiction, and economic instability, making it even more difficult to address effectively.

One significant point raised was that “homelessness can impact a student’s well-being and academics in many ways, and it varies as each student is different. All people are emotionally affected by instability and a lack of a consistent place to live.” This emotional turmoil can manifest in various ways, from depression and anxiety to anger and frustration, making academic focus and performance challenging for many students.

Addressing homelessness requires a multifaceted approach that combines short-term interventions with long-term solutions. Immediate measures, such as increasing access to shelters and supportive services, are essential for providing immediate relief to those in need. However, these must be complemented by efforts to address the root causes of homelessness, including affordable housing shortages, inadequate social support systems, and systemic barriers to employment and healthcare. Thankfully, there are organizations, activists, and policymakers working tirelessly to combat homelessness and its underlying causes. From grassroots initiatives providing meals and clothing to advocacy groups pushing for policy reforms, there is no shortage of individuals and groups dedicated to making a difference. As members of this community, we all have a role to play in addressing homelessness, whether through volunteering, raising awareness, or advocating for change.

At the Urban Assembly School, there are specific initiatives aimed at supporting students facing homelessness. “We have established a food, health supplies, and clothing resource room. We also work with students who may need additional Metrocards and speak with them to see what other needs we can aid them with. Additionally, we reach out to the families to see what community resources they may still need,” shared a staff member.

Educators emphasize the importance of empathy and flexibility. “Teachers can aid students by being aware of needing to be flexible with deadlines and assignments, especially when the student has been open about their situation. Being compassionate and empathetic is a starting point, along with being open to listen to your friend,” advised a teacher.

Misconceptions about homelessness often exacerbate the stigma faced by those experiencing it. One major misconception is that homelessness is due to personal failure. “Homelessness can happen for a huge variety of reasons and some of them are out of a person’s control. When faced with this misconception, I lead with education and help people build capacity for compassion,” explained the school’s social worker.

In the spirit of compassion and solidarity, let us come together to confront NYC’s biggest social issue head-on. By recognizing the humanity of those experiencing homelessness and working collaboratively to implement effective solutions, we can build a city where everyone has a place to call home. As future leaders and change-makers, let us commit ourselves to creating a more just and equitable society for all New Yorkers.


The New York Times 

View Comments (1)
Donate to The UAM Hub

Your donation will support the student journalists of The Urban Assembly for Media Studies. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UAM Hub

Comments (1)

All The UAM Hub Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • E

    Em JJun 6, 2024 at 10:48 am

    I’m so proud of you Natalia! Can’t wait to collab and see what things we can do together!