Stacey Kaliabakos ‘23
All my life, I have been fortunate to call New York City my home. Throughout my childhood, I heard stories of a city that had once been a dark and dangerous place in the 70’s and 80’s; however, those were quite different from the NYC I grew up in: a bustling city full of culinary experiences from around the globe, a plethora of museums to visit, quick and efficient train rides, a Times Square that could easily be in Disney World, and a gorgeous Central Park that I often visited during my gym classes at school. As of late, though, things have taken a turn for the worse. Walking through the streets of NYC, one can sense the seediness all around them. Potholes reminiscent of lunar craters jar passengers in yellow cabs as they fall in. One need not look too far to spot rats larger than some cats scurrying around in an effort to satisfy their voracious appetites. Litter and garbage line the sidewalks and fill the subway tracks. The saddest part for me, though, is the rising homeless population. As a Christian attending a Jesuit institution that instills its motto of living “for and with others,” I am deeply saddened by the homelessness crisis. My heart is filled with sorrow at how a part of the city’s population could live in such squalor, poverty, and utter degradation. The homeless who suffer from mental illnesses and drug addiction are forced into the street without help, and those who have lost their jobs and homes are no better off. I often wonder where these people were a few years ago in life when I pass them in the street. What sequence of events led to their current situation? Did they have loved ones to care for? What happened to their own families? The empathy I feel for their plight is ever-growing and doesn’t go away by giving a homeless person on the street a meager five dollars that can barely buy anything in NYC, where everything is stupidly expensive.
On the other hand, I had a rude awakening during fall break that literally hit too close to home. A few blocks away from my house, a homeless woman attempted to choke a 16-year old girl to death while she was dining outdoors at my favorite local sushi restaurant. The entire neighborhood was rocked by the news, and I came to the conclusion that homelessness is an urgent issue that the new mayor of NYC must address immediately. Both candidates who are running to replace Bill de Blasio this November have plans to target the homelessness crisis, but will they actually do anything once getting into office? We will see. The current mayor has not done anything but exacerbate the crisis, so I hope that either Curtis Sliwa or Eric Adams will be able to help.
In any case, it is not only inhumane for our fellow citizens to live in these conditions, but it also creates a very unsafe environment for all. Young people like ourselves—College of the Holy Cross students—need to be engaged in their communities to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. We have to demand and foster an environment that is clean, welcoming, and safe for all to live in harmony.