This year, as most New Yorkers celebrate the holiday season, a record number of homeless people will be passing the time outdoors or in the shelter system. Despite a recent nationwide dip in the homeless population, there are more homeless individuals in New York than ever before.
The most recent Homeless Outreach Population Estimate survey conducted by the city Department of Homeless Services counted 3,180 homeless people living in public places throughout the city. Many eschew shelters, citing overcrowding and dangerous conditions. And some have mental or substance abuse issues that are hindrances to taking advantage of aid programs.
In Brooklyn, Methodist Hospital nurse Jackie Nunez has been working in the emergency room for over four years. Over the last several winters, she has seen an influx of homeless people who check themselves in or are brought in from freezing temperatures. In addition to being confronted by the physical toll of cold weather brings on, she has also seen how the holiday season can make our homeless neighbors feel particularly isolated and alone.