I first met Charmain in 2013. You can watch her original interview here. At the time, Charmain shared she has been in and out of the New York City homeless shelter system since 2005. It’s hard to imagine that homeless services could not house this woman in fifteen years.
In the homeless sector, you’ll often hear politicians and nonprofit executives use the phrase “homeless people are service resistant.” The truth is, services are people resistant. 100% of homeless people will go into housing and stay in housing if it’s the right housing. This short video on housing my homeless friend Lanny proves it.
Charmain slept outside the night before, even though she is placed in a temporary shelter. Charmain is a survivor of domestic violence, yet New York City’s social services placed her in a shelter with all men. Charmain feels after on the streets than in the shelter she has been placed in.
Charmain said, “they push you until you have a mental breakdown, and then you’ll get your own apartment.” What she is referring to is the homeless sector priorities people based on their vulnerability. This model developed as a way to triage homelessness with limited resources. Although I used to support this, in recent years, I have changed my mind. If Charmain was housed after being homeless in New York City for fifteen years, it would take her several years and support to heal. Charmain is in her 40s, she’s intelligent, and to survive NYC’s streets, she obviously is tough. In a few years, Charmain may be able to re-stabilize. If we wait until her mental state gets worse, social services will be taking care of her for the rest of her life.
Since her first Invisible People interview in 2013, Charmain says she has slept outside 80% of the time. Last winter, she stayed in the temporary homeless shelter, but as soon as the weather got warm and the coronavirus pandemic hit, Charmain came right back outside.
I adore Charmain. It was great seeing her again. I love reconnecting with people I interviewed in the past, yet it’s so heartbreaking seeing people still outside after years of homelessness.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here https://invisiblepeople.tv/getinvolved to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.
Special thanks to Josh Dean from https://www.human.nyc