Young and homeless in New York | DW Documentary

Young and homeless in New York | DW Documentary

For many, New York City is a place of dreams. But John Torres knows it’s darker sides. He and his family live in one of the city’s homeless shelters.

For more than a year John Torres and his wife Zoe have been looking for an apartment, without any luck. A daughter being added to the equation hasn’t made things any easier. John has a part-time job, but it doesn’t pay enough for them to make ends meet. The challenge he faces is one affecting many. As of January 2023, around 650,000 Americans are in a similar position – the highest number of homeless people in the USA ever, with more than 90,000 in New York alone. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many aid programs have been discontinued and the cost of housing has risen so dramatically, that in some cases residents can no longer afford the rent and end up on the streets. Many of the organizations offering aid are privately funded, like the one helping John Torres. But finding affordable housing is difficult. A report by Benjamin Alvarez Gruber.

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Video Transcript

I got a safe roof over our head for now until we find an apartment and just you know making sure I took every necessary step to make sure that you know this one gets like the life that I never had New York the city of Big Dreams for many is

Also home to a growing number of unhoused people but it’s real easy to be homeless these days over 650,000 people are homeless in the US more than ever before the situation is especially bad in New York and so this is where I live John lives with his family in a homeless shelter in New York he shares this room in Brooklyn with his girlfriend Zoe and their daughter Isabella I’ll be the entryway this is basically my kitchen that’s the fridge that they provide in the unit and they also

Provide a little table and then they give you a dresser and a bed as you can see it’s been a year since they moved in here they’re working hard to be able to move into their own place as soon as Possible right now we’re trying to get help getting an apartment but it’s taking a little while now because the public assistance is backed up with a bunch of cases so right now we’re just waiting to get help that we need John was kicked out of his family home when

He was 21 he stayed with friends for a while while before landing in a homeless shelter he then got a flat but ended up in a shelter again after he couldn’t afford the rent we had to do like a few hurdles um it took us like three tries

To get to this shelter so they have multiple shelters in New York but the shelters we were sent to before they they were kind of like not suitable like for us living in them because at the time she was pregnant and the conditions were really like bad I would say it was

Um run down areas there was a lack of security um the space that they provided was really really small like I say like shoulder to shoulder like units I’d say it’s like about like 3×3 um this one that we got to it it was it was like

More convenient for us because it had a little bit more space homelessness in New York is at its highest level in almost 100 years over 990,000 unhoused New Yorkers are currently sleeping in the city’s homeless shelters about a third of them are children over the past 10 years the number of homeless adult

New Yorkers has doubled pushing up demand for shelter places also among young families my sisters all went through the shelter system cuz they all have kids and you know they couldn’t like stay where they were living couldn’t they couldn’t live like with my mom cuz no space there so they had to go

Through the shelter too and that’s kind of what made me want to say hey if they could do it I could do it too John Works night at a Clinic where he is often confronted with homelessness more people are going into the hospital just cuz they want a bed they want something to

Eat and you know the the hospital can’t deny them but it’s unfortunate cuz sometimes I have to like kick them out cuz that’s like a part of my job even though I don’t want to cuz I understand what it is to be homeless since I experienced that myself in his teens

John broke the law he was arrested and sent to prison Zoe whom he met in high school never gave up on him I I never thought I was a good person you know I thought I was just a average person but you know she she really gets

In my head and she lets me know like hey you’re a strong guy you do everything you can to do right and it’s true she she made me like she she made me find a fire in myself that I didn’t know I had until you already had that fire no I I

Didn’t I didn’t have I didn’t realize that I had that fire until she like helped me acknowledge it and and then from there it’s just been it just keeps burning stronger and stronger and then with this one it’s like she’s asleep now it’s just like a a furnace or something

It’s just going to keep burning like you know no matter what happens to me if I have health conditions or mental conditions you know I’m always going to try to be the rock for them try to be a a sense of stability that they can

Always rely on cuz you know this is this is my family now so you know I want to do the best thing to be their protector and and their provider F and I’m going to do everything in my power to do that um I always believed in him um

People used to tell me all the time you know he’s bad for you don’t follow him he’s so many things but I should close my ears to it cuz I believed in him to this day I believe in him and Rodriguez also believes in John the lawyer runs a

Nonprofit called avenues for justice which works to keep young people out of prison and provides young offenders an alternative to incarceration anel is very troubled by the changes he’s seen it’s real easy to be homeless these days um because of the economic issue I mean look this neighborhood there was a

Time even for me where the landlord didn’t give me heat I look around the corner and get a bigger apartment for less money that was the situation I mean there wasn’t this hustle and this issue of Statistics in terms of you know how much apartments are costing we weren’t

Looking at a lot of that but today the issue is out of control where there is no housing um for even people who who want them and need them uh the apartments that I used to rent were $200 the same apartment today is $4,000 same apartment the covid-19

Pandemic made things worse according to a survey by cuni around 44% of New Yorkers had problems paying their rent at the outset of the pandemic leading to numerous evictions job termination domestic violence mental illness and addiction are other reasons why people end up on the streets Andel has been

Helping young people facing such challenges for 50 years I always say that I’m a court advocacy program um I I don’t really deal in homelessness however this work takes me in into everywhere including the issue of homelessness because I’m representing a lot of young people um who in 2023 or

Since the pandemic even before that L these kids are on their own problems at home um uh problems that they create for themselves sometimes that create situations where they can’t go home the center aims to offer young people a safe space they can do their homework here have

Lunch or learn how to improve their CV for example they also have access to counselors who can serve as positive role models one of them is Elsie who first came to the nonprofit many years ago to join its program at the age of 13 I started to

Sell drugs um all the way up to about 16 and a half and at 16 I was arrested three times and at the same time I found out I was pregnant so that just fli my whole life around in many different places where the program came in play to

Help me do that exactly which is put me back in school um you know get me a place I was living with my mom at the time in a studio apartment um just to prepare myself for being a young mother um I was 16 I had no idea what I was

Getting myself into um between becoming a young mother and Fa State Prison time um I think those are two barriers that I probably won’t want to wish on anybody now Elsie is helping others today she’s dealing with a client’s case in Conneticut hey how are you um to my

Understanding he had a court appearance today correct yes correct and the outcome was we um to my understanding if he was being released mom had to be there correct no no um I want you know follow up on the on the status because if we do need to

Go up there we just need the heads up okay appreciate you all right thank you okay you to bye yep they want to know nothing until tomorrow that’s another state New York and Connecticut runs very different you cannot possibly do this job if you just coming in here just do a

Job and go home this job has more to do with it mentally we we are fighting against a system that clearly is not fair for minorities so it it’s like a balance that is just not fair right home supposed to be the safe place and safe

Home is not safe for most of these kids who come here unfortunately um and from that I was like wow you know like I got to get it together um because I would have been crying all the time you know most of our kids don’t get a good deal like we will

Hope um you know because we up against a system that the law comes in play LC doesn’t just work at the nonprofit thanks to donations she is also studying at NYU the biggest private university in the states considering her past her journey was anything but a

Given well my you know between my trauma that I’ve been through um between being in a criminal justice system homeless a dxic violence Survivor I will tell my young self that it’s not my fault um that I am loved there’s people that do care for me um and you can do

Anything that you put your mind into um I think confidence is a very key point to these kids who go through or being in the shelter because for some kids is embarrassed um and just to make them feel that they worthy Elsie has managed to come a long

Way John and Zoe also hope to be able to stand on their own two feet soon in spite of everything they’re staying optimistic ever since she was born I feel like time has just been flying like I feel like a month goes by and a week

Mhm you know there’s no time to think just everything is just happening at the same time before I know it we’re going to be all living in our apartment with our three cats I’ve done the most that I’ve ever done in my entire life when it comes to like trying to be

Responsible being on top of everything getting everything that we need together you know all the paperwork all the information having to renew stuff it’s it’s just been a lot like you know I feel like I’m I’m pooped I’m ready to go to sleep and not wake up till next year

Video “Young and homeless in New York | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 12/31/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.