The Public Interest

The homeless of New York

Thomas J. Main

Summer 1983

IN most neighborhoods of New York City it is possible to see a large number of people in the streets who are variously described as “vagrants,” as “bag people,” or, most often, as “the homeless.” It is not at all unusual today to see several homeless people stretched out in a subway station; tourists in Greenwich Village seem surrounded by these aimless wanderers; and everyone who uses Pennsylvania Station or the Port Authority Bus Terminal must have seen those who have made these public places their homes. Such a situation could not fail to attract attention, and in fact New Yorks news media frequently run reports on the homeless, community service organizations devote much effort to advocacy and research work on the subject, and the city spends considerable resources on the problem. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that, in terms of public attention and growth of government involvement, this is one of the city’s most pressing problems.

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