To the editor:
(re: “Lines drawn over homeless,” Nov. 18)
A few days ago, while walking on the west side of Broadway, I noticed a building with paintings all over the surface of its ground level exterior. But there was no name or address on the building.
I decided to go inside and inquire. In the small lobby, there were three people — one a security guard. When I asked about the building, I was told that I could not be given any particulars.
This was a strange occurrence for me, and I decided I would contact local authorities to learn more. As coincidence would have it, a couple of days later in The Riverdale Press, there were two stories written by Joseph De La Cruz concerning plans for the proposed men’s homeless shelter in North Riverdale.
In one story, he refers to 5731 Broadway, “where families transitioning out of homelessness now live.” And in another story he refers to a shelter on West 235th Street, right across from the Stop & Shop.
Now at least I know the building is a shelter of some sorts, but the details are sketchy. Nevertheless, along with the stories appearing in The Press, that incident motivated me to write this letter addressing the issues of the way we deal with people.
To give the reader an understanding of my basis in addressing this letter, I will describe the environment in which I was raised.
Born in New York City, just after the Great Depression arrived, I grew into adulthood living in the city. The great immigration to this country prior to World War II came from Germany and Italy, respectively, and it influenced the ethnic makeup of New York City, where large German and Italian neighborhoods were established.
There was also a large Jewish influx into New York during the 1930s as the Nazi influence in Europe began to increase.
There were other pockets of ethnic groups, such as the many Irish that had arrived during the latter part of the 19th century, and lesser groups such as Greeks, Poles and Chinese. There were very few Hispanic immigrants in New York at the time.
My recollection of New York neighborhoods was that they were based on religious, ethnic and racial cultures — usually a mixture of all three. I experienced the culinary practices of several cultures, and can say that the women of that day could cook anything Martha Stewart does. We may have been poor, but we ate well.
Religious participation was routine, and houses of worship were filled on the appropriate days. The home was the center of family life around which all activity was based. Ethics and its appropriate behavior were taught and practiced in the home, which included respect for elders, parents, members of the opposite sex, and people of different faiths, color and ethnicities.
All people are, to a major extent, the product of their environment, and the various religious, racial and ethnic cultures helped to develop them and prepare them to survive and contribute to the greater social order.
Perhaps the editor of The Press will give me the opportunity to write about the influence of gender, family, ethnicity, race and religion in the development of society.
Now we live in a society in which there are just people — no men or women. Just people. We do not refer to race, ethnicity or religion, as that would be considered prejudice instead of factors that would help to sustain us.
We care for people now, much as we care for livestock. But even livestock are given food commensurate with their species.
The homeless will be stuffed into holding pens, fed food that has no relationship to their ethnicity, is devoid of any religious offering, ethnic tradition or racial culture. What are they going to do when they are not eating and sleeping?
Something to reflect upon as these comments come to a close. What would these homeless men be thinking about when they see the women of North Riverdale walking down the street?