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Written March 2012
New York has almost 40,000 residents who are homeless — the population of my hometown — or living in shelters around the city. In one year, between 2010 and 2011, the number of homeless living on the city's streets and subways rose by 34 percent.
That period was when I was spending time every week in Manhattan. One early Sunday morning, after seeing a number of people sleeping on benches at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry, I decided to start a Facebook album depicting the homeless and see how people in my networks would react.
The number of panhandlers continues to grow. You can’t walk down the street without seeing someone asking for money, often to buy drugs or alcohol. One day, a man asked me for money for food; when I offered to take him to the McDonald's, he refused.
Municipal governments across the nation have cut social services programs since the recession began all too long ago. In late 2011, I was approached about donating my photos to a video being created for doyouhaveonedollar.org, a philanthropic social challenge that asked New Yorkers to give $1 each to the benefit the Bowery Mission and its partners.
Several of these photos were used at the start of the video. More than $5,000 was raised during the 40-day campaign, far less than the goal the organizers had in mind, but still a welcome sight for many of the city's disadvantaged.
The video is still up on YouTube. You can find it here.