Student Reflection – NYC, Home of the Homeless (1.1)

By Anna Charles

On November 9, 2009, the New York City department of homeless services created a daily Census report and estimated that 38,000 people are living in shelters, 17,000 of those are children. In New York City, I see homeless people in the streets. Homeless people travel on the New York City public trains and buses begging for money and food. Often times when I look around the train cart and buses, people make pretend that they are busy, when a homeless person boards the train and begins to ask for money. I have seen people close their eyes as soon as a homeless person boards the train. I have seen people putting on their head phones and looked the other way.  Others use their phones to distract themselves and there are even those who simply choose to ignore them. I have even done that myself.  In the past, when a homeless person boarded the trains, I use to turn on my MP3 player and simply look the other. One day I thought about my actions and I realized how selfish I was and how selfish many people in America are. We simply chose to over look the fact that people around us are hurting and in desperate need of help. That is why I chose to produce a viral video on homelessness. I wanted to show how we get distracted and don’t realize what is going on around us.

One of my biggest problems that I have encountered filming this video was the amount of opposition that I received from my family and friends. When I told them that I wanted to do this video, many of them were very vocal and objected to the idea. I had people tell me that they believed I was exploiting the homeless; I had people tell me that I was heartless and simply rude.  But that never stopped me from doing this project. It just fueled my fire to produce a video which showed my stance.  On a Saturday morning, my sister and I left our house at 7am to film the clips for the video.  Our first stop was just around the corner from our house. There was a homeless man who slept at that corner every day. My sister was hesitant about filming him sleeping. Like my other friends and family, she felt as if she were exploiting that him. My sister explained to me why she felt that way. She works at a facility that helps the mentally and physically disabled. She interacts with homeless people on a regular basis. My sister felt guilty about filming them because she knew how they feel when they are being exploited and abused.  But after trying several times, she warmed up to the idea and filmed me on the street corner. I directed her on where to stand and how to position the camera to capture the proper shot. Once we were done, we jumped into a taxicab and traveled to the nearest train station. Once we entered the train station we quickly saw a homeless man sleeping on the train. I felt that it would be wrong for us to enter into the train itself to film him. So we stood outside of the train and filmed him in the background.

Our next stop was Manhattan. We stopped at 51st street, and looked around to find a couple of people. One of the things that we saw which bothered us was the fact that there were many boutique stores and fine dining restaurants in that particular area. We walked near banks, hotels, churches and even cigar shops. Nearly at every corner there was a homeless person either standing there or sleeping on the ground. We were able to find two homeless people sleeping right around the corner from a bank. It looked as if they slept there on a regular basis. They had their carts and bags lined up next to them. It looked as if they’ve created a makeshift home for themselves. We traveled again to several other stops and filmed men sleeping on benches and women carrying around their life possessions on their backs. Once we were done filming we discussed our experience and we both realized that we were blessed and thankful to have people around us that cared for us and loved us because if they weren’t there we could have been in that situation ourselves.