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Standing With The Homeless On The Frontlines of Covid-19

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By Juan Galloway, NYC Relief

Mother Teresa once said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.  It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

Last year, there was a staggering 39 percent increase in the number of homeless people who died in New York City.  From July 2018 to June 2019, over 400 people living on the streets passed away. In the current pandemic, that will pale in comparison for people living on the streets, unless we mobilize and take action now.

I am the president and CEO of New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to people struggling with homelessness.  Since 1989, our mission has been to connect people to what they need to have a better life. In this health crisis, we have our hands full serving those most at-risk: the elderly, sickly, addicted and lonely. They are exposed on the streets with no way to “socially distance” themselves from each other and the infected.

Before the pandemic spread across America, news stories were full of headlines about the homelessness crisis. New York City has the largest population of people who don’t have permanent housing. Now, over 80,000 people are struggling to find a meal as homeless services are closing when the need is greatest. The fears are legitimate and we understand workers must be protected. However, during one day of outreach alone last week, we served 800 meals in three hours–a new record for our organization.

This tells us where things are headed.

Our staff and volunteers are stepping up to the frontlines during this crisis to help those who cannot help themselves. Many are putting their health at risk for the sake of strangers who they consider to be their brothers and sisters. They are also potentially putting their families into harm’s way through secondary exposure. In other words, it’s getting real.

Now is the time for all New Yorkers to support community-service organizations like New York City Relief that are fighting for our homeless neighbors right outside our doors. We need extra funds for safety supplies such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and forehead thermometers. I am calling on Americans to rise up, as we did after 9/11. It’s simple: give so that others can live.

The city, state and federal government can only do so much.  It’s time for us all to sacrifice for the sake of the other. When preparing his country to face war, Winston Churchill famously said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”  It will take spine and grit for us to fight this war against the spread of Covid-19.

If you are on the fence about helping, maybe this will bring things into focus:

Helping the homeless helps everyone.

Flattening the curve for our neighbors on the streets flattens the curve for all of us.

During my 17-year career serving friends challenged with homelessness, I have officiated at funerals for those who died alone on the streets.

If compassionate people step up to do what they can, many of these tragedies can be averted.  We have the power to effect change and protect those in danger.

Now is the time to act.

Courage.  We are all in this together.

PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN. EVERY GIFT COUNTS. To make a donation to support our efforts on the streets, click this link.