The mission, which opened in 1872, offers food, clothing, shelter, counseling services and medical care at 90 Lafayette St. For 142 years, it had only offered shelter for men. For the first time on June 16th, the mission opened its doors for women to stay overnight. Women are let inside at 4:30 p.m. and have dinner at 5 p.m. They leave after having breakfast at 7 a.m. the following morning. Fowler, one of 65 women who have utilized the shelter since it first opened, described the Mission as a blessing.
While accurate figures for New York’s unsheltered homeless are hard to come by, the thousands sleeping on the streets are in addition to the 53,615 people – a record-breaking figure not seen since the Great Depression – who enrolled in the city’s shelter system in January this year. Yankee Stadium would not be able to seat all of them.
A young father enters a colorless room holding his infant son while his wife sits nearby trying to believe this isn’t happening. Their older kids, not much older than the infant, stay close. They are all tired and they are all homeless. The father tells the intake worker that they had been staying with friends but had to leave and now have nowhere else to turn. He asks for help because they have no money and his baby son just needs a bottle of milk.
The father is 25, it is 1970 in New York City, and I am that baby boy.