In a five-part series, The New York Times followed an 11-year-old girl living with six siblings and her parents in a homeless shelter in Fort Greene. The story contrasts the appalling conditions at the Auburn Family Residence at 39 Auburn Place — it has made headlines for years for having no heat and other problems — with the changes in the surrounding neighborhood. Mice dart in and out of a crumbling wall. A hair dryer warms the baby’s crib.
“City and state inspectors have repeatedly cited the shelter for deplorable conditions, including sexual misconduct by staff members, spoiled food, asbestos exposure, lead paint and vermin,” said the Times. “Auburn has no certificate of occupancy, as required by law, and lacks an operational plan that meets state regulations. Most of the shelter’s smoke detectors and alarms have been found to be inoperable.” Click through to the story for photos reminiscent of Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives.”
Outside, “the skyline soars with luxury towers, beacons of a new gilded age. More than 200 miles of fresh bike lanes connect commuters to high-tech jobs, passing through upgraded parks and avant-garde projects like the High Line and Jane’s Carousel. Posh retail has spread from its Manhattan roots to the city’s other boroughs. These are the crown jewels of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long reign…as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.”
The parents are unemployed and have had problems with drug addiction, while the number of families living in homeless shelters has grown since a 2004 Bloomberg policy that no longer gives homeless priority for public housing.
More than 22,000 children are homeless in New York City, “the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America,” said the story. “One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.”
The family is trying to save money to move to Pennsylvania. When asked why families are staying longer in the shelter system, Bloomberg said it was because they offer “a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
Invisible Child [NY Times]
Photo by Scott Scott Bintner for PropertyShark