Take Action to Help the Homeless



Corbin Gregg, Jill Rice and Cat Fernando volunteer at the Metro Baptist Church food pantry.


You’re in a packed subway car. Perhaps it’s rush hour, or maybe a weekend. But the moment the door closes, a person stands up, dressed chaotically and unfit for the weather and they start talking. It tends to begin with an apology:  “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for disrupting your day.”

This person then goes on to explain the unfortunate circumstances that have befallen them, which has led to their homelessness. They will then politely ask for any help that people are willing to offer, whether it be money, food or kind words. The spiel typically ends with a “Thank you for your time, I hope you all have a wonderful day.”

But their time is too often wasted. The effort spent apologizing, telling their story and thanking the commuters and tourists is useless.

Because as the person walks the subway car end to end, many people shy away, averting their gazes as if homelessness was a disease spread through eye contact. Passengers look at their phones, scrolling through emails, Twitter, Instagram, anything that will indicate to the homeless individual that they are not interested in interacting.

They usually act as if the individual doesn’t even exist.

These are all the symptoms of one great problem: New Yorkers have become desensitized to the homeless community in our city.

Common excuses are that everyone is busy, people have their own jobs and own lives to care about, and it is impossible to help every homeless person they meet.

While it may be ineffective to donate to every homeless person you pass, treating homeless people as if they don’t deserve any respect speaks louder than any sort of financial aid. Constantly ignoring people who are not only fellow New Yorkers, but neighbors, is a form of dehumanization.

This mentality and the stigma surrounding homelessness has allowed for nearly 64,000 people, more than a third of whom are children, to continue living on the streets.

Additionally, homeless people are rarely at fault for their situation. In actuality the primary cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing.

As members of this beautiful city, we should take on the responsibility of improving the welfare of our fellow New Yorkers. While it is implausible and ineffective to constantly give money to homeless people, there are other easy ways New Yorkers can help. For one, you can donate all those old winter coats to a clothing drive, like the Bowery Mission. Or, if you’re feeling generous, you could donate money to organizations who work to provide shelter to all New Yorkers, such as Coalition for the Homeless. Even sparing five minutes during your commute to call 311, and have them contact a homelessness organization to bring a homeless person to a shelter, can make a difference.

There are even ways to help within Fordham. Cat Fernando, Fordham College Lincoln Center ’20, leads a group of Fordham students to a food pantry for low income and homeless families at Metro Baptist Church on 40th Street every Saturday. In addition, she runs a charity, Socks in the City, that distributes socks to homeless people throughout New York City, which is especially crucial during the winter. Students seeking to join her at the Metro Baptist Food Pantry or donate to Socks in the City can reach her at [email protected].

We all have an obligation to help the homeless. We may not think we have the time for philanthropy, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference you can make in a New York minute.