I returned to New York last week. When I stepped out of the airport I was blasted by a bitter 11º chill. That's -11º for my Celsius friends. Cold. Real cold. This is not a pleasure trip. I'm here for PushMethod. We're recording new music. We're playing a few shows. And, we're orchestrating something called "Hoodies for the Homeless."
As I popped into a toasty Uber car for a quick and comfortable ride into the city, I felt relief. And, I felt grateful. More than my temporary escape from the cold, I had a comfortable place to go. No, it wasn't home. No, it wasn't even a bed. It was a small layer of foam in my bandmates bedroom, but there were blankets and pillows and the warmth of a luxury apartment in Manhattan.
"Well, of course you have a place to go." you might say. A lot of us take that for granted. Even considering my current situation, which doesn't allow for much security, I do. When talking to a ten-year-old friend about this, she said "You're kind of homeless, right?". Technically, I am. But it seems completely ludicrous when compared to a person faced with literally freezing to death. I may be without a home, but I'm not homeless.
Opinions on homelessness vary widely... it's principally funding alcoholism and drug addiction... it's not where the money goes, but where it comes from... they're fakers who make $40K panhandling... on and on. I understand people's cynicism. I can't deny that I've given into machiavellian ideas when time and time again I'm faced with a shell of man clearing out a subway car due to his intolerable stink. In comfortable suburban communities all across the Western World where we are typically free from the "bums," it's easy to give little thought. Even in the cities where homelessness is rampant we are faced with indifference. It seems an endless problem, one that no amount of money or compassion can solve. It's just the way it is.
Facts can be misleading and contradictory, slanted by an agenda or inconclusive research. Because of PushMethod’s Hoodies for the Homeless project, I dug into the research a bit. I wanted to grasp the problem, and found some things worth sharing. NYC organization Coalition for the Homeless asserts the level of homelessness in the city is the highest since the Great Depression. Take a look at these facts. Nationally speaking, HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) compiles a locally conducted census on the homeless population every other January. In 2014 the number was 578,424. This total represents the amount of shelter space, transitional housing and safe havens available. For a more specific breakdown, go here. This number does not account for the street, which any urbanite sees is leaving out thousands. Internationally, the United Nations reported over 100 million homeless people in the world; a number that balloons to 1.6 billion when considering those with transient or inadequate housing (HUD’s definition per its number above). That's over 20% of the earth's population. This collection of photos from around the world is worth a look.
Hoodies for the Homeless is a simple idea. Lead by my bandmate, Tavis, PushMethod has partnered with the Hoodie Shop in Manhattan to produce a live music event aimed at collecting as many hoodies as possible to be distributed to NYC homeless. Support for the concept is tremendous. Brands like Alternative have pledged gear, organizations like New York City Rescue Mission are joining in, and Celebs like Questlove will lend voice. We imagine support will grow as we near the event, on February 5, at the Hoodie Shop (181 Orchard St). Our hope is that people will donate new and lightly-used gear so that Hoodies for the Homeless transcends a single evening and brings a bits of warmth across the city.
Will you please join us? Show your support at the event. If you are not in New York, mail your new or lightly used hoodies to this address: Havas Worldwide, attn: Tavis Eaton, 200 Hudson St, NY, NY, 10013.
Personally, this event has lead me to do some introspection. My ideas fluctuate. What I find clear is this: neither my opinions nor how I interpret the "facts" matter. I'm just one man and not wise enough to solve a challenge of this magnitude. What matters is remembering that I feel the cold and am fortunate enough to have a place inside... the same cold that many are unable to escape. Opinions and facts aside, I'm just trying to make a few more people's lives suck a little bit less. It's as simple as that.